POLITICS – NORTHERN IRELAND-2017/03/03-UK

Northern Ireland votes to Remain

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Northern Ireland has voted to remain in the EU Referendum by a majority of 56% to 44%. However, the UK, as a whole, has voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU. Following the result, Prime Minster David Cameron said he would continue for three more months in post, then step down by October. It is up to a new prime minister to start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU, he said.

In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster said that as a leader of unionism, she felt it was the right decision. “We are now entering a new era of an even stronger United Kingdom,” she said. “We campaigned to leave the EU. This is the democratic decision of the people of the UK. This is a UK-wide decision and every vote is equal within the UK. I am proud of the fact that this decision was taken by the people.” The first minister said she would be working for “the best possible exit negotiation”. Mrs Foster said a border poll on the reunification of Ireland, as called for by Sinn Féin, would not happen. “The secretary of state has already indicated that the test for a border poll has not been met.” she said. In speaking about the future, she added: “People should not panic. This is something that will take place over a long period of time. I see it as an historic opportunity to build up this nation state again.”

Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, has also ruled out the possibility of a border poll. However Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the entire island of Ireland should now be able to vote on reunification. He said there was “a democratic imperative” for a border poll. Mr Cameron had been “sleepwalking towards an exit” over the last year, he said. He accused him of “kow-towing” to the right-wing agenda and the “little Englander mentality”. But, he said, the people of Northern Ireland, both nationalist and unionist, had voted against that. The deputy first minister said the impact in Northern Ireland would be “very profound”. “Dragging us out of Europe will be to the detriment of all our citizens and will be bad for business, trade, investment, and wider society,” he said. “I, and all Sinn Féin ministers will work to ensure the political institutions remain on a stable footing, but it is very difficult to put detailed contingencies in place until we know the extent of the impact of Brexit on our finances, our infrastructure and health services.

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