| 5.5°C Belfast

Funding commitment fears are misplaced

As well as our Joint Ministerial Council in Downing Street, I also met Finance Minister Mairtin O' Muilleoir and his Scottish and Welsh counterparts yesterday.

One of the topics we discussed was the future of European Union funding and the guarantees the UK Government has put in place to help provide certainty and allow important ongoing investment.

Over the past few weeks some have questioned what this means in practice.

I want to dispel any concerns.

The Chancellor has already announced that the Treasury will guarantee funding for structural and investment fund projects signed before the UK leaves the EU, even where projects continue after we leave.

This includes funding for cross-jurisdiction programmes like Peace and Interreg, from which Northern Ireland has benefited hugely. We will also guarantee the payments of any awards won by UK organisations who bid directly to the EU for competitive funding, including infrastructure support, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK's departure from the EU.

This funding supports projects that bring people together within Northern Ireland and through cross-border projects.

They are also important in supporting economic development across the UK.

These assurances from the UK Government give confidence that funding applications should continue as normal, and provide more certainty following the country's decision to leave the EU.

So I want to be clear that where the Northern Ireland Executive signs up to structural and investment fund projects under their current EU budget allocation prior to Brexit, the Government will ensure they are funded to meet these commitments.

It is simply not true that the UK Government is responsible for preventing projects proceeding.

But there are clearly longer term questions about funding beyond EU Exit, some of which were tackled in the Prime Minister's meeting with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Downing Street yesterday.

Leaving the EU means we will want to take our own decisions about how to deliver the policy objectives previously targeted by EU funding.

I will continue to work closely with the Executive over the coming months to ensure Northern Ireland's best interests are represented.

Belfast Telegraph