Northern Ireland can get £300m from Brexit deal: Bradley promises cash for peace-building if MPs back May
Secretary of State Karen Bradley last night unveiled a £300m UK Government funding package to support peace in Northern Ireland - but tied the money to Theresa May's Brexit deal.
The programme, which includes a further £109m from the EU, is designed to continue support for peace-building projects up to 2027.
The funding, called PEACE Plus, is the post-Brexit successor to the cross-border peace-building scheme that started in 1995.
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But she appeared to link the money with the Prime Minister's troubled withdrawal agreement, which is struggling to get through the House of Commons and is opposed by the DUP.
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Bradley said she was "delighted that the UK Government has committed up to £300m of funding for the successor to this programme, PEACE Plus".
She added: "This funding flows from our joint commitment within the EU in the withdrawal agreement to maintain funding for vital work on reconciliation and a shared future for Northern Ireland until at least 2027.
"It is a clear example of the certainty that the withdrawal agreement provides to the people of Northern Ireland and why it should be supported."
The EU has already set out its plan for £109m of funding during 2021-27, if its financial framework is approved.
Current PEACE funding is only guaranteed until 2020.
It is understood that the post-2020 support package could be in jeopardy if the Prime Minister's Brexit deal is not ratified by Parliament.
However, also writing in today's newspaper, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the withdrawal agreement remains "utterly unacceptable" because of the backstop.
Mrs Foster said: "As the House of Commons debates the withdrawal agreement, it is abundantly clear that the backstop is the problem.
"Indeed, with the backstop removed, despite other concerns, the withdrawal agreement would command much greater support in Parliament."
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Civil Service here is seeking volunteers to oversee fuel distribution in the event of an emergency.
Sinn Fein has suggested advocates of a no-deal Brexit should be the ones left to man the pumps and explain the disaster to people.
In a letter sent to many staff yesterday and without reference to Brexit, officials said disruption to supplies was unlikely but it was necessary to put emergency response plans in place. They said Stormont's Department for the Economy would work with the oil industry to ensure those providing key functions, such as hospitals and staff, continue to receive fuel until normal supply is restored.
The letter said: "These organisations and individuals would be directed to a network of strategically located filling stations spread across Northern Ireland and identified as a priority for supply from reduced stocks."
Two civil servants would be located at each of the designated stations during any emergency to monitor demand and ensure that the process runs smoothly.
Volunteers would check the validity of fuel permits presented by individuals identified by their organisations as a priority to receive fuel from designated filling stations, the letter said.
"Details must be recorded of the amount and type of fuel purchased so HQ staff can track demand patterns.
"Training will be provided and they will explain the scheme to customers, thus leaving filling station staff free to dispense fuel and take payment."
The last time serious disruption happened to the oil industry here was in 1974 during the loyalist Ulster Workers Council strike in protest at the Sunningdale Agreement.
Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said: "The advocates of a no-deal Brexit should be left to staff the pumps and explain the disaster of a no-deal Brexit."
A statement from the department said for many years it had worked closely with industry.
It added: "This process is not new and is a routine exercise to bring the resource back to the required capacity."
Due to staff changes it was considered "prudent" to reissue the call for volunteers.