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Mairtin O Muilleoir to discuss Brexit fallout with other UK Finance Ministers

By David Young

The Finance Minister will today meet his counterparts from Scotland and Wales to discuss the implications of the vote to leave the European Union.

Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir will travel to Cardiff for talks with Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford.

The ministers are expected to discuss the impact of the Brexit vote on public finances and on future funding streams.

Before the meeting, Mr O Muilleoir said: "The impact of the EU referendum has created uncertainty and challenges for us all across these islands.

"It is therefore critically important that the three devolved administrations work together closely on financial areas of common interest.

"I will state the case for our situation in the North and I am keen to hear the implications of the referendum result across Scotland and Wales.

"I am committed to working with ministerial colleagues across these islands to explore all the options to safeguard the interests of our people."

Mr Mackay said: "No one can be clear on the likely impact of Brexit on UK Government finances, and we are already seeing the UK Government suggest changes to future spending plans. It is clear there are significant issues and challenges ahead.

A majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU in last month's referendum, while in Wales 52.5% of voters chose to leave.

Meanwhile, the Republic's foreign minister has claimed the EU will be sensitive to Ireland's desire to preserve the "invisible border" and maintain close relations with post-Brexit UK. Charlie Flanagan insisted other EU partners understood the nature and importance of the close link between Ireland and the UK.

Concerns have been expressed on both sides of the Irish border that movement of trade and people will be negatively impacted when the UK leaves the EU.

The future of the Common Travel Area (CTA), which has allowed people to travel freely around the island since partition, has been the subject of intense public debate.

While the governments in Dublin, Belfast and London have expressed a desire to keep the border as open as possible, the EU member states will ultimately have to agree to the shape of what will become of one of the Union's external frontiers.

Addressing the Diplomatic Corp - Irish based ambassadors representing 75 countries - Mr Flanagan highlighted the "crucial role" the EU played in the peace process. He said while the contribution of the EU to reconciliation projects in Northern Ireland would be missed, he stressed that the peace that had been achieved would remain "embedded and irreversible".

On the Republic's National Day of Remembrance, the minister told ambassadors: "Without doubt, the period ahead will be very challenging for the European Union as it seeks to ensure that the UK remains a close partner while working to deliver even more effectively on the priority concerns of its citizens."

He added: "I have spoken to several of my EU counterparts in recent days and I will continue these conversations over the coming weeks.

"I know our EU partners understand well the uniquely close nature of Ireland's relations with the UK and that, in the spirit of accommodation which characterises the European Union, they will be sensitive to our concerns which include the exceptionally close relationship between these islands, the sharing of a land border, the unique status of our citizens in the United Kingdom and, of course, the implications for the peace process..."

Mr Flanagan said: "The Irish Government will continue to work intensively with the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to see how best collectively we can work to ensure that the gains of the last two decades are fully protected."

Belfast Telegraph