THE North stands to lose billions from its economy if it is forced out of the European Union, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has said.
The Deputy First Minister was speaking following a major British Irish Council summit in Cardiff today to discuss the implications of the Brexit referendum.
On Monday, he and DUP First Minister Arlene Foster met British Prime Minister Theresa May who said there would be no return to a ‘hard border’ between the North and the Republic once Britain leaves the EU next year.
Said the Foyle MLA: “It is absolutely clear from the various briefings and discussions today that leaving the EU would be economically, socially and politically disastrous for the North of Ireland.
“The meeting heard how our economy was set to receive €3.5 billion in European funds between 2014 and 2020.
“A sizeable portion of that will be at risk if we are forced out of Europe.
“Such funds will, of course, not be available at all in the years following 2020 and I don’t think anyone seriously believes that the British Government will reimburse these losses.
“As well as these direct European funds, we are already losing an unquantifiable amount of private investment as foreign direct investors turn their attention to regions which can guarantee access to the European market.
“There are many more implications for the common travel area, for the free movement of people, goods and services which all add up to a disastrous situation.
“Potentially, we are looking at tens of billions being taken out of our economy over the coming decade.”
Martin McGuinness also criticised the British Government’s handling of the situation.
He said: “We are in this mess because the previous British Government called the referendum in a foolish attempt to placate racist and loony right wing elements within both UKIP and the Tory Party.
“And, rather than respect the democratic wishes of the people here who voted to remain in the EU, it seems the new British Government is determined to drag us out against our will.”