Government plans all-island dialogue on Brexit in November

Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster not to attend

Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster  will not attend the all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit. “It’s not a question of boycotting, I’ll just not be going and I made that clear right from the very start,” she said. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster will not attend the all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit. “It’s not a question of boycotting, I’ll just not be going and I made that clear right from the very start,” she said. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

The Government will shortly begin the process of inviting potential participants to an “all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit”.

The event, to be held in Dublin on November 2nd, will be hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

A broad range of “civic society groups, trade unions, business groups and non-governmental organisations as well as representatives of the main political parties on the island” will be invited, according to a Government statement issued after the Cabinet met yesterday.

Local authorities in Border areas are also likely to be invited, as well as some Government agencies and universities and higher education institutions.

However, the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster - who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union in the referendum - will not be among the attendees.

“It’s not a question of boycotting, I’ll just not be going and I made that clear right from the very start,” she said at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday.

“There is absolutely no need for another superstructure to have this conversation.”

Not briefed in detail

It is understood that the First Minister’s office had not been briefed in detail in advance of the Government’s announcement yesterday.

The Taoiseach will next meet the First Minister - along with their cabinets - at the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh on November 18th.

The dialogue will be asked to produce a report and recommendations which will be used to help inform the Government’s position on issues related to the UK’s exit negotiations, according to the Government statement.

The Cabinet also agreed to intensify a series of initiatives to prepare for the British exit, after the Taoiseach brought a memorandum to yesterday morning’s meeting.

‘Brexit-proof’ the Budget

These include a series of discussions with interested groups in particular sectors, such as agriculture, education, and measures to “Brexit-proof” next week’s budget.

The Government also reiterated its intention to continue its programme of intensive diplomatic engagement with EU institutions and other EU member states. The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is expected to visit Dublin next week.

Speaking the Dáil yesterday, the Taoiseach noted that the Northern secretary James Brokenshire had told the Tory Conference that there would be no return to a hard border, echoing previous statements by British prime minister Theresa May.

“These are clear statements and they need to be backed up,” Mr Kenny said.

Activity in Government to prepare for Brexit is likely to move up a gear in response to the announcement by Mrs May that she will activity the formal article 50 process to leave the union in March of next year, sources said.

Writing in today’s Irish Times, former justice minister Alan Shatter is highly critical of Mrs May. He describes as “an unenthusiastic participant in council meetings of EU justice and home affairs ministers. She is one of those who, while nominally for Remain, helped lay the foundations for Brexit and the English electorate’s anti-immigrant paranoia.”