Positions of UK nations harden on Brexit after British-Irish Council

Nathanael Williams

At emergency meeting about the effects of Brexit, opinions of leaders stay divided

POLITICAL leaders from across the British Isles met in Cardiff today for crucial emergency talks about the Brexit result of the European Union (EU) referendum.

The British-Irish Council (BIC) summit in the Welsh capital was called by Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones and was attended by leaders and ministers from the constituent nations of the British isles.

The Scottish Government delegation was led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and attended by Fiona Hyslop, MSP and minister for culture.

Reactions after the conference were mixed. With the positions of each nation being entrenched, comments were made in diplomatic tones. 

Sturgeon said the discussions were "frank and robust", but this was in stark opposition to the new Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire MP, who stated: "Brexit means Brexit, but the government is in listening mode."

"The discussions were frank and robust." Nicola Sturgeon

Support for the UK Government position came from the unionist side of the Northern Irish political divide. First Minister Arlene Foster said: "The decision to leave was a UK wide one and we have to respect it."

However, Martin McGuiness, Sinn Féin politician and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, said that the EU referendum result in Northern Ireland – which was 56 per cent in favour of Remain – should be respected. 

"The decision of the people in Northern Ireland who voted remain should be protected," he said, adding: "I'm determined to protect interest of the majority in Northern Ireland who voted to Remain."

This was in contrast to the unifying tone struck by Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones. "The decision to invoke article 50 should have to have the approval of all devolved governments," he said – a point referred to as “legitimate" by Sturgeon.

Jones, who has the task of representing his constituent nation Wales, which voted 55.2 per cent in favour of leaving the EU, stressed the importance of unity.

 "I'm determined to protect interest of the majority in Northern Ireland who voted to remain". Martin McGuiness

The Irish government delegation was led by the An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD and the UK Government delegation was led by Alun Cairns MP, secretary of state for Wales.

The Northern Ireland executive delegation was led by First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA. The Isle of Man government and government of Jersey delegations were led by chief ministers Allan Bell and Ian Gorst.

Picture courtesy of freestocks

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