Martin McGuinness: Northern Ireland stands to lose millions in EU funding
Northern Ireland is set to lose out on hundreds of millions of pounds from the EU by the British Government implementing Brexit, Martin McGuinness has warned.
Speaking after a meeting of the British-Irish Council yesterday, the Deputy First Minister insisted he could not see how the Common Travel Area between NI and the Republic will survive the forthcoming negotiations on the UK's departure from the EU.
And he revealed the one-day gathering in Cardiff had been told a huge chunk of a €3.5bn (£2.94bn) injection is now in danger.
"The meeting heard how our economy was set to receive €3.5bn in European funds between 2014 and 2020. A sizeable portion of that will be at risk if we are forced out of Europe," he said. "Such funds will, of course, not be available at all in the years following 2020 and I don't think anyone seriously believes that the British Government will reimburse these losses."
And in a no-holds-barred attack, he went on: "We are in this mess because the previous British Government called the referendum in a foolish attempt to placate racist and loony right-wing elements within both Ukip and the Tory Party.
"And, rather than respect the democratic wishes of the people here who voted to remain in the EU, it seems the new British Government is determined to drag us out against our will."
However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved to underpin the London Government's view that there should be no return to a 'hard border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
New Secretary of State James Brokenshire said last week there is no desire to go back to a 'hard border'.
And yesterday, following the latest meeting involving all national and regional leaders, Mr Kenny said: "We do not want to see a European border internally on the island of Ireland. There will not be a hard border from Dundalk to Derry.
"I can tell you that hard borders would not be accepted in the south or the north."
Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny said it was vital there would not be a return to the days of "checkpoints, towers and customs".
"There are modern ways of not having hard borders. The best possible outcome for everyone is a UK that's prosperous and has the closest possible links with the European Union," he said.
"For us in Ireland, that means access to the single market. And it's been made perfectly clear by the EU council that if that is to happen, then the respect has to be there for the freedom of (movement of) people.
"We have difficulties, but I expect us to retain the Common Travel Area."
First Minister Arlene Foster said: "When people talk about a hard border, I think they think back to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland have said very clearly they want to make the Common Travel Area work. There are ways to deal with this that we can be creative and flexible about."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood agreed there was no appetite for a return to customs check points. "Any new customs or travel restrictions with Britain must be based around Ireland, not across it," he added.