Belfast Telegraph

Devolved administrations vow to fight Westminster austerity

Finance ministers from the UK's three devolved administrations have pledged to fight Westminster austerity measures resulting from Brexit.

Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay held talks in Cardiff on Monday with his counterparts from Wales and Northern Ireland, Mark Drakeford and Mairtin O Muilleoir.

They are seeking an urgent meeting with Chancellor George Osborne in a bid to avoid further public spending cuts or savings and protect EU funding.

They said: "We are determined to act resolutely to protect the interests of all our people, especially against further austerity policies that might be considered as a consequence of the referendum result.

"This is particularly relevant in the context of the majority vote in both Scotland and the North of Ireland to remain within the EU."

They urged the UK Government to take the opportunity provided by the referendum to think again about its economic and fiscal policy.

They said: "It is essential we assure potential investors, the business community and those in receipt of European funding that we will endeavour to put in place the necessary measures to safeguard our interests; and certainty on future budgets will underpin those assurances."

They sought clarification on alleged plans to reduce some spending by a further £3.5 billio n in 2019-20.

Mr Mackay said: "We remain unclear on the likely impact of Brexit on UK Government finances, and we are already seeing the UK Government suggest changes to future spending plans as well as considerable concern over the economy and investment levels.

"The devolved administrations need urgent answers from the UK Government on the impact that the Brexit vote could have on future budgets, and that is why it is crucial that we meet with Mr Osborne imminently."

Mr O Muilleoir said it was vital the interests of the people across the devolved administrations were protected and ministers worked together on areas of common interest.

He added: "Together we are seeking assurances from the Westminster Government around budgets and that the levels of current significant EU investment will be sustained.

"Obviously the potential economic impact on the border region in the North of Ireland, which has greatly benefited from European funding, is of particular concern."

Mr Drakeford said the impact of Brexit on the UK's finances would feed into devolved budgets.

He said: "Today's meeting gave us an opportunity to come together to share our concerns and to explore how we can speak with one voice in our talks with Westminster.

"That is why we have written to the Chancellor requesting a meeting to raise our collective concerns and to seek assurances for our people, communities and businesses."


From Belfast Telegraph