N. Ireland Politics

Brexit vote: NI first minister says 'whole of UK is leaving EU'

Arlene Foster
Image caption Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said the whole UK, as one EU member state, had voted for a British exit from the institutions

Stormont's first minister has rejected a suggestion that Northern Ireland and Scotland could stay in the European Union when the rest of the UK leaves.

The majority of voters in both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain but the UK as a whole voted to leave.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested her country could stay in the UK and the EU, while the rest of the UK leaves the bloc.

But NI First Minister Arlene Foster said "the whole of the UK is leaving".

'Determined'

"The very basic fundamental is that we are leaving the European Union," Mrs Foster told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.

"The reality is that we are part of the United Kingdom as a member state. That [EU] member state has decided by a referendum of all of its people to leave the European Union.

"It doesn't mean that we are leaving Europe, it means that we're leave the institutions of the European Union," Mrs Foster added.

"My job, along with [Deputy First Minister] Martin McGuinness is now to get the best deal possible for all of the people of Northern Ireland, that's what I'm determined to do."

'Veto'

However, Mr McGuinness said the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, where 56% voted to stay in the EU, "must be respected" by the British government.

Image caption Martin McGuinness said if Northern Ireland and Scotland were effectively being given a "veto" by he PM, he believed Stormont MLAs would vote to remain in the EU

He told the Sunday Politics programme that Prime Minister Theresa May's comments after her first meeting with the Scottish Minister were "significant".

"Theresa May, in the aftermath of her meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, indicated that she wouldn't trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty unless all parts of what she would describe as the United Kingdom are satisfied.

"Well, we are not satisfied," Mr McGuinness said.

"And if that effectively hands a veto to Scotland and to us in the north then we will use it and I think I can deliver a vote in the assembly which rejects any attempt to drag us, against our will, out of Europe."

Following her meeting with Ms Sturgeon on Friday, the prime minister said she was willing to listen to options" on Scotland's future relationship with the EU.

Mrs May said: "I have already said that I won't be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations - I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50."

In her first speech as prime minister, she also said the "word unionist is very important to me".

"It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

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