Skip to main content

Article 50: Northern Ireland Assembly

Volume 620: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2017

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that the Northern Ireland Assembly will be consulted before the triggering of article 50. (908416)

We are determined that Northern Ireland’s voice will be heard. All the devolved Administrations will be fully engaged in the process of preparing to leave the European Union. We will continue to consult the devolved Administrations, including through the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

Membership of the single market is obviously critical to Northern Ireland. Given the commitment to the common travel area, will the Minister tell us what blockages, apart from political ones, remain to Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining part of the single market?

The Prime Minister was robust in her stance on wanting the freest and best possible trading arrangements with the European Union to allow UK companies to operate with and trade in the EU. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports that.

12. From his broad discussions with businesses, does my right hon. Friend agree that Northern Ireland remains a great place to do business and that we must all do all we can to ensure that that continues after we leave the EU? (908424)

I agree that Northern Ireland is a great place to do business. There are some amazing companies, entrepreneurs and businesses there. That is why we want to see Northern Ireland continue to grow and flourish and have an Executive in place at the earliest opportunity.

14. In his statement on 17 January, the Secretary of State said:“I will continue to have engagements across the community, with business, with the voluntary and community sector and more broadly, to ensure that we continue to listen to and reflect upon the views of people in Northern Ireland”.—[Official Report, 17 January 2017; Vol. 619, c. 782.]What meetings has he had with communities in Northern Ireland since then and what meetings does he plan between now and the Assembly election? (908426)

We continue to have meetings with our community sector roundtable, and only last week I met representatives of the business community through my business advisory group. I am very clear about continuing to listen intently to views across Northern Ireland to help inform our approach as we look to the negotiations ahead with the EU.

Sinn Féin’s decision unilaterally to collapse the Northern Ireland Executive means that they have excluded themselves from any discussions on article 50. Will the Secretary of State, along with the Brexit Secretary, continue to work closely with members of the Northern Ireland parties that attend this House, to ensure that our voice is heard deeply and fully in that important matter?

The Joint Ministerial Committee met earlier this week in plenary session, and I was pleased to see representatives of the Northern Ireland Executive. We want that to continue. Obviously, in the House, I will continue to listen to the views of right hon. and hon. Members to ensure that we carefully reflect Northern Ireland’s voice.

Although the foul, mephitic fug of Brexit has cast the land into shadow, life must go on. Further to the Secretary of State’s comments, he will accept that the JMC is currently the main body for consultation with the devolved institutions. Yet this body has no authority, no Standing Orders and no fixed rules. Will the Secretary of State commit to formalising the role of the JMC, the crucial body during the negotiations in these dark days?

The Joint Ministerial Committee operates between each of the different nations of the UK and regulates those arrangements. We see it playing an important role, not only now, but in the future, with European negotiations being part of that, in seeking to ensure that the voice of the devolved Administrations is heard loud and clear and to get the best arrangements for all parts of the UK.