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Theresa May coming to Northern Ireland for Brexit talks with Foster and McGuinness

By Noel McAdam

Theresa May is set to make her first visit to Northern Ireland as Prime Minister next week, it can be revealed.

The new premier is expected to hold talks with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the main focus is expected to be the fall-out from the EU referendum.

Mrs May is due to be accompanied by the man she appointed Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, who visited the province briefly earlier this week. Mr McGuinness revealed the plans for the visit by Mrs May yesterday.

Mrs May has indicated she does not intend to trigger the two-year period of negotiations on the UK's departure from the EU - Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - until next year. But Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness remain on opposite sides of the debate, after a majority in Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain within the EU, while the UK as a whole opted narrowly to leave.

A final Executive session to discuss the way forward is also expected next week, before ministers take their usual August break from meetings.

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry last night challenged Mrs May to meet the First and Deputy First Minister together to allow them to jointly put the case for "special recognition" for Northern Ireland to the PM.

"While the Prime Minister visited the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, our leaders continued to squabble, seemingly not caring that we will be more adversely affected than any other region by a Brexit," he said.

"The Prime Minister should insist on meeting both Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness in the same meeting as joint leaders of the Executive, instead of the individual leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"Therefore a united voice can be presented to her, one that recognises Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU and which puts across the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves."

Last night, Mrs May was told by French president Francois Hollande that Britain needs to trigger Brexit negotiations as soon as it can to avoid the "danger" of uncertainty. At a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Mr Hollande said it was a case of "the sooner the better" regarding when Britain invoked Article 50.

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