UK to hold just one vote on EU membership, forum hears

Garda Commissioner and PSNI chief express doubts about creation of Border ‘corridor’

The British government has ruled out holding separate referendums on EU membership in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales,

saying voters will be deciding on the European future of the UK as a whole.

But Europe minister David Lidington told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) in Cheltenham the referendum result would show how each part of the UK voted.

“It will be clear how people vote in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland because we will count on that basis. It is the UK that is the member state of the EU, it is right that this decision is taken on the basis of the UK as a whole,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week expressed concern about the impact of a British exit from the EU on the stability of the constitutional settlement in the North.

Mr Lidington said it would probably not be possible to change the EU’s treaties in time for a referendum to be held by the end of 2017, saying his government was looking at the option of binding protocols similar to those won by Ireland and Denmark in the past.

“You would need to have an assurance that this was being treated as binding. What we are offering is a grand bargain, a fiscal compact to be written into a treaty within five years,” he said.

Optimistic

Northern Ireland Office minister

Ben Wallace

told the assembly he was optimistic that the impasse in talks between the parties in Northern Ireland was close to a resolution.

“We are hopeful that this week above all is the week that we shall finally come together to fulfil the Stormont House Agreement,” he said.

During a session on North-South police cooperation, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said any measures that enhanced such co-operation were welcome.

However, both expressed scepticism about the creation of a “corridor” along the Border where both police forces could operate. They said that, while the idea was a good one in principle, it raised issues around jurisdiction and accountability.