Northern Ireland

Ó Muilleoir: Government must 'do more' or £300m EU funds could be lost

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
Image caption Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: 'We are as far apart as Belfast is from Boston'

Stormont's finance minister has said the UK government must do more to ensure that European peace and cross-border funding is secured as part of the Brexit negotiations.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said that Brexit Secretary David Davis did not make a commitment to underwrite the funding during their meeting on Thursday.

The finance minister said that up to £300m could be lost.

Mr Davis also met First Minister Arlene Foster on his first Belfast visit.

'Frank exchange'

Mr Ó Muilleoir told BBC Radio Ulster that he and Mr Davis had "a very frank exchange", but on the subject of Brexit "we are as far apart as Belfast is from Boston".

"I believe we should respect the vote to remain, that the people here in the north voted to remain in the heart of Europe," he said.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said he asked the Brexit secretary "to make a real effort" on behalf of bodies that are dependent on EU peace funds.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Davis was on his first visit to Northern Ireland since taking responsibility for the UK's Brexit negotiations

He said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, had said he would guarantee EU "letters of offer" issued before his autumn statement.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said this was "probably the first week of December. That leaves up to £300m with a question mark over it".

The finance minister said the best Mr Davis could do was "to say that he would feed that back in".

'Not good enough'

He said he told the Brexit Secretary that "in my view that isn't good enough, you need to press harder than that".

Speaking after his meeting with Mrs Foster, Mr Davis underlined the importance of controlling immigration and said that "we have to take control of our borders".

He identified the single energy market, exports and the skills base as "things which are important to making Brexit a success in Northern Ireland".

Both Mr Davis and Mrs Foster campaigned for a leave vote in the EU referendum and believe Brexit offers excellent potential trade opportunities.

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