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Sinn Fein and DUP Brexit tension could hinder all-Ireland solution

Published 21/11/2016

The Irish Government fears that tensions between Sinn Fein and the DUP over Brexit will hamper attempts to find an all-Ireland solution to the matter.

Secret Irish Cabinet briefing material states that the "divergence" on the UK referendum results between the two parties has "inevitably impacted" on their "capacity to deal with consequences" of Brexit.

The DUP supported a Leave vote while Sinn Fein backed staying in the EU.

Cabinet papers in Dublin note that so far the power-sharing executive only agreed to a number of 'asks' on Brexit which were contained in a letter sent to Prime Minister Theresa May in August.

The letter asked that free movement of people, goods and service across the border should remain in place and also pointed to a need to allow Northern Ireland to trade with EU member states.

The Cabinet papers were given to ministers ahead of Friday's North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh.

"In light of the internal dynamics in the Executive, however, it is still far from certain how much more detail on their priorities and 'asks' the Northern Ireland Executive will bring to this plenary meeting," the briefing stated.

The last Ministerial Council meeting was overshadowed by a spat between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and DUP leader Arlene Foster over the Fine Gael leader's all-island Brexit forum.

Ms Foster also publicly criticised the Government for "talking down" Northern Ireland's economy as part of an attempt to poach investors. However, Friday's meeting was described as constructive by all sides.

A separate Cabinet briefing document also urges ministers to "sensitise" EU member states and institutions to the Republic's concerns during the Brexit negotiations in the run-up to the British government triggering Article 50.

Meanwhile, Brexit is causing an unprecedented level of uncertainty which is leading to forecasts of an economic slowdown, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond said "there's no point crying over that fact" and stressed it was the reality of pulling Britain out of the EU. The Chancellor also admitted the Government would have no clarity on what the UK's future trading arrangements will be when it triggers Article 50 of the EU treaties to begin the Brexit process.

Mr Hammond told ITV's Peston On Sunday: "Of course, business likes certainty and that's one of the challenges we face over the coming couple of years - we're going to have an unprecedented level of uncertainty and that's one of the factors causing many commentators to predict that there will be a slowing of economic growth."

The Chancellor also criticised the 60 Conservative MPs, including former cabinet ministers, who have called on the Prime Minister to commit to what many will see as a so-called "hard Brexit".

Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, John Whittingdale and former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers urged the PM to pull Britain out of the European single market and the customs union.

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