Northern Ireland

Brexit: No special EU status for Northern Ireland, says Villiers

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in 2014 Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Theresa Villiers and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan are to meet to discuss the implications of Brexit

Northern Ireland cannot maintain any kind of special status within the EU after the UK withdraws from the union, Theresa Villiers has said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said EU rules do not permit part of a country remaining within the European Union.

She was speaking ahead of a British Irish meeting to discuss the political way ahead after the referendum result.

"The EU rules are very clear - membership is at member state level, it's a national question," she said.

In Northern Ireland, the majority of voters (56%) voted for the UK to stay in the EU in last week's referendum.

But overall, the UK electorate voted to give up its EU membership by 52% to 48%.

Divided

"This decision has been made - the people of the UK have voted to leave the EU," Ms Villiers, who pushed for a Leave vote, said.

"That decision is going to be respected, that's what the government will take forward."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon has met EU officials in Brussels as she seeks to secure Scotland's place in the union

Ms Villiers is to host the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to discuss the fallout from the EU referendum result.

Northern Ireland Executive ministers have also been meeting to consider the implications of Brexit and the potential impact on their government departments.

The politicians who are meeting at Stormont today are deeply divided about the issue.

Dragged

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon travelled to Brussels on Wednesday to seek to protect her region's relationship with the EU.

Gibraltar, which, like Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to remain in the EU, has signalled it wishes to explore its options..

Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have said they do not want to be "dragged out of the EU" on the basis of English votes.

But First Minister Arlene Foster and and her Democratic Unionist Party campaigned for a Leave vote

She said: "The campaign is over, the decision has been taken, and now it is our job to go ahead and to represent the people of Northern Ireland in terms of the negotiations that are going to take place now.

"That's certainly my focus, to get the best deal for Northern Ireland in terms of the Brexit from the European Union," she said.

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