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May forcing UK to take leap into darkness, claims Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness

By Rebecca Black

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has claimed the UK is taking a "leap into darkness" after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she is to start formal Brexit negotiations before the end of March.

The deputy First Minister's comment stood in stark contrast to DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson's response, that it's time for the UK to "get on with it".

Ms May announced yesterday that she plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of next March.

Sir Jeffrey welcomed the end to the uncertainty. "I do think we need to get on with it now," he told the BBC.

"Further uncertainty and a further period where people don't know what's going to happen, where there isn't a negotiating process that people can focus on, doesn't help anyone.

"I think it's good that we've now got a clear time scale to move this forward."

However, Mr McGuinness took the opposite view, and claimed the UK Government is taking a "leap into the dark with no plan and no idea what Brexit means".

"The issue of when the British Government will actually trigger Brexit continues to be a movable feast," he said.

"Theresa May has also made a U-turn on comments she made before the referendum when she said it was inconceivable to suggest a Leave vote would not have a negative impact on the border.

"The reality is that the British government is taking a leap into the dark with no plan and no idea what Brexit means.

"What is clear is there is no good outcome from Brexit."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said the onus is on Stormont to "urgently pull a credible plan together". "Now that the Prime Minister has given clear notice that Article 50 will be triggered before the end of March 2017, there is a huge onus on the Executive to urgently pull a credible plan together for Northern Ireland so that the unique challenges facing us are addressed as part of the UK's negotiations with the EU," he said.

"The Executive now has nowhere left to hide and the clock has started counting down.

"Their approach so far has been lamentable, marked by mixed messaging and a complete lack of urgency.

"We need to exploit the opportunities presented by Brexit but if we're not careful we could be left behind."

The SDLP leader claimed Mrs May had no intention of listening to Northern Ireland.

Colum Eastwood said: "Few in Northern Ireland will draw any comfort from Theresa May's speech and, in the absence of any defence of Northern Ireland's interests from London, it is imperative that the Executive now states clearly and comprehensively what they will be doing to ensure the people's views are represented."

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