Brexit: Supreme Court Ruling

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP 3:15 pm, 24th January 2017

T2. Mrs Overend asked the Minister for the Economy to comment on the Supreme Court’s Brexit ruling. (AQT 697/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I have been following other court proceedings today, as the Member might be aware, so I have not had a chance to fully look at and study the judgement that has been made by the Supreme Court.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

Bearing the Supreme Court decision in mind and given the lack of any agreed Brexit position by the outgoing Northern Ireland Executive, does the Minister have any idea as to how the Northern Ireland economy will be put on the agenda in London?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

The Member makes a valid point. Here is an issue in terms of Brexit and Northern Ireland's position in seeking to get the best deal for Northern Ireland, which is clearly hampered by the situation that we are now in, with Sinn Féin walking away from the Executive. It is a critical time in respect of the triggering of article 50, however, and when that will be done by the Prime Minister. It is incredibly important that Northern Ireland's voice still be heard. Unfortunately, given the circumstances that we are in, that will become incredibly difficult as a result of what Sinn Féin has done in pulling out of the Executive.

The Northern Ireland Executive have, over the last number of months since the referendum result in June, bombarded Whitehall with information about the Northern Ireland economy. We have engaged at Secretary of State level with various Departments and, crucially, with David Davis and his Department, the Department responsible for Brexit. It is clear from that engagement that that message — the need for the particular circumstances that Northern Ireland faces and the clear circumstances created by our history and geography — is getting through, and we hear that verbalised by very clear support for Northern Ireland's position from the Prime Minister.

Before Christmas, I was able to engage with the Prime Minister of Malta, who is now the president of the European Council. It was significant that he acknowledged the particular circumstances that Northern Ireland faces and pointed out that, in respect of the position in Brussels, it was one of the key priorities for Brussels to deal with the situation in Northern Ireland. I think that that bodes well for a positive outcome for Northern Ireland from the upcoming negotiations.