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Arlene Foster warns against holding EU referendum in June

Published 15/02/2016

Arlene Foster said the months leading up to the crucial vote on whether the UK should leave the EU would clash with the Assembly election campaign
Arlene Foster said the months leading up to the crucial vote on whether the UK should leave the EU would clash with the Assembly election campaign

Holding the Brexit referendum in June will not allow a clear debate on the issue in Northern Ireland, the First Minister has warned.

Arlene Foster said the months leading up to the crucial vote on whether the UK should leave the EU would clash with the Assembly election campaign.

The administrations in Scotland and Wales have voiced similar concerns about the mooted June 23 date.

A DUP Opposition Day motion in the House of Commons last week urging the Government to postpone the referendum to the autumn was defeated.

Mrs Foster said she and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would hold talks with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on the issue on March 1.

But she stressed those discussions could be "too late" as Prime Minister David Cameron is set to conclude his negotiations with the EU on a reform package in the coming days.

The DUP leader said the Government should listen to the concerns expressed in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

"If they are to give respect to the devolved administrations then they should be listening very carefully to what we have got to say," she said.

Mrs Foster acknowledged there were differing opinions within Stormont on whether to stay in the EU.

She added: "But I think we can all agree on the fact that we need a very clear debate on the issue of the referendum and unfortunately I don't think that's going to happen."

The First Minister had been asked about the timing of the referendum by Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy.

He told the Assembly: "I share her obvious concerns at the dismissal of the concerns not just of the people in the north but also I think Scotland and Wales are suffering the same sense of being ignored and being treated with contempt to a certain extent by the British government."

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