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Separate Brexit meetings expose the lack of 'joined-up government'

By Noel McAdam

Published 02/09/2016

Brexit Secretary David Davis (left) with Secretary of State James Brokenshire
Brexit Secretary David Davis (left) with Secretary of State James Brokenshire

Divisions in the Stormont Executive have been exposed again after the UK's Minister for Brexit held separate meetings with DUP and Sinn Fein ministers.

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, first met First Minister Arlene Foster, who is in favour of the pull-out, followed by Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleior, who is against.

Stormont's main opposition party said the separate meetings yesterday with the DUP leader and Sinn Fein minister were "another example" of the "lack of joined-up government".

UUP finance spokesperson Philip Smith said: "If you contrast the inaction of the Executive with that of the City of London - who have appointed Jeremy Browne, an ex-Government minister to represent their views - Northern Ireland has a lot of catching up to do to ensure our interests are well represented in the UK's negotiations with the EU."

The DUP described the meeting with Mrs Foster and Economy Minister Simon Hamilton as "useful", while Mr O Muilleior said that he had urged Mr Davis to respect the vote in Northern Ireland, where 56% opted to remain as part of the EU.

Mr Davis also attended the inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Advisory Group, set up by Secretary of State James Brokenshire, which includes the Confederation of British Industry, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Institute of Directors (NI).

Afterwards, Mr Davis said Brexit will lead to "big opportunities" for Northern Ireland business and reiterated that the Government in London will take "looking after the regions and nations seriously" in its negotiations with the EU.

"With respect to access to the single market, what we will seek to do is ideally have a tariff-free access, but this is a matter of negotiation," he said.

"We will be negotiating over an issue I suspect is in the interest of other members of the EU... to get a good trading relationship in the long-run."

And on the linked issue of immigration, Mr Davis said: "As a result of the biggest mandate in the UK's history (the referendum in June) we have to take control of our borders.

"We have had a common travel area for many, many decades before we were part of the European Union and we will maintain that," he added.

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