Brexit poses serious threat to NI peace process, warns minister

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was addressing an Oireachtas Committee in Dublin

The potential withdrawal of EU funding to Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit poses a serious threat to the peace process, Northern Ireland finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has warned.

Addressing the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday agreement, Mr Ó Muilleoir said a whole raft of social, structural and peace funding from Brussels had been placed in doubt in the wake of the June referendum.

"Pick a paper everyday and you have a different idea of what the British are going to do in relation to Brexit," he said, making it difficult for Stormont to have a plan on how to cope with the potential fallout.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said the North’s farmers would be the hardest hit by the Brexit fallout given the sector’s dependence on EU customers and its dependence on EU subsidies.

He noted that while the British chancellor had pledged to underwrite the CAP payments to farmers up to 2020 beyond that point the situation remained unclear.

“So there is this danger in 2020 that farm payments fall off a cliff,” he said.

The minister, who was scathing about the so-called Brexiteer camp in Westminster, said Brexit would be “a grievous blow to trying to build a peace and foster reconciliation”.

Speaking at the annual policy conference of the Dublin Economics Workshop at the weekend, Mr Ó Muilleoir said Northern Ireland’s move to a 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax by 2018 was also in doubt because of the vote.

Even if it does come to pass, he said the investment dividend could be cancelled out if the North finds itself outside the EU.