Belfast Telegraph

PM May not taking Brexit concerns seriously, warns SF's McGuinness

By Donna Deeney

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he doesn't trust the Secretary of State to deliver a good deal from Brexit.

He made his remarks at a summit which brought business and political leaders to Londonderry.

The event centred on laying down forecasts for the economic future for Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

Mr McGuinness said the Executive is determined to deliver new and better jobs for the region - but questioned James Brokenshire's role in the EU exit negotiations.

He added: "The Executive is committed to delivering for all because, without a strong economy, you cannot tackle deprivation, you cannot deliver the health and social care people need, you cannot improve quality of life and you cannot deliver real social change.

"During this mandate we will invest an additional £1billion in our health service, protect household budgets, support the most vulnerable in society, enhance our reputation internationally and implement the Fresh Start Agreement.

"We all want an economy that works for everyone, providing good jobs and the opportunity for our people to possess the skills they need to improve their lives.

"To do this we must be competitive. That won't mean we will become one of the biggest economies in the world but it does mean we will have a well-justified reputation as one of the world's most dynamic, innovative and high-performing small advanced economies.

"Although we can't manage factors beyond our control, we must use every lever possible to mitigate the consequences and support people."

Mr McGuinness told the Northern Ireland Economic Conference that in order to get the best deal for people here out of the Brexit negotiations by the Government, he would not leave it in the hands of Mr Brokenshire.

He added: "I will be travelling to London to meet the British Prime Minister, as well as the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, to ascertain whether this British Government knows what it is doing over Brexit.

"Key areas of concern were identified in the joint letter from Arlene Foster and myself, and the question is whether the British Government is taking those seriously, and the answer is I don't think so. "I don't trust this British Government to negotiate on our behalf. They don't have the best interests of the people of the North at heart.

"And despite what James Brokenshire may say, he will not be my representative at those negotiations. That is the responsibility of elected representatives here."

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was among the guest speakers at the conference.

He commented: "European Union financial support has played, and continues to play, an important role in developing the economy of Northern Ireland. Many Government agencies, public bodies, private sector companies and the farming community continue to receive EU funding.

"We all recognise the Brexit negotiation will be difficult. The EU has never faced in its history as complex an exercise as the forthcoming negotiations but, with political goodwill to succeed and with a mutual respect for one another, agreement can and must be reached."

"It is certainly for the mutual benefit of both Britain and Europe that this is the case, and the interests of all the people on the island of Ireland must be protected during this negotiating process," Mr Ahern added.

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