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James Brokenshire to tell Tory conference how ‘north will make a success of Brexit'

Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement that the process to leave the EU would begin next year has divided the Executive parties. Picture by Charles McQuillan/PA Wire

SECRETARY of State James Brokenshire is to tell the Conservative Party conference that the north's interests will be protected when the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Brokenshire is due to tell the party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday that Northern Ireland will make a success of Brexit.

"Building a Northern Ireland that works for everyone also means making a success of the UK's democratic decision to leave the European Union," he will say.

"And I am in no doubt that Northern Ireland can and will."

The Secretary of State is expected to promise that the British government will work to keep the Common Travel Area with the Republic, post-Brexit.

"We will work to ensure that Northern Ireland's unique interests are protected and advanced.

"That's particularly the case when it comes to the land border with the Republic of Ireland and the Common Travel Area which has served the UK and Ireland well for many decades."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the Conservative Party on Monday of "not caring about the people of the north" after an announcement that formal negotiations to leave the European Union will begin next year.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Sunday that she intends to begin the process of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union by the end of March next year.

The move to trigger Article 50 will see the UK leave the bloc by the summer of 2019. 

Mr McGuinness said: "It is quite obvious the British government is on a collision course with the EU in which our economy and successive agreements are regarded as collateral damage.

"This is more about the internal division within the British Tory party which clearly has no clue whatsoever about what it is facing.

"The Tories clearly do not care about the people of the north who clearly voted to remain in the EU."

His comments were at odds with the First Minister Arlene Foster, who said that she welcomed the announcement, which she said "brings further clarity to the process of exiting."

The DUP leader said: "It is important to maximise our opportunities as well as overcoming the challenges unique to Northern Ireland.

"I make no apologies for saying that I will be working to secure the best exit deal for Northern Ireland and I will work alongside other parties, despite our differences on the referendum outcome, to get that deal for our people."

The First Minister also said that she had not commissioned a document on the possible consequences of Brexit and claimed she hadn't seen the paper.

Steve Aiken MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party's economy spokesman, said: "There is a huge onus on the Northern Ireland Executive to urgently pull a credible plan together....perhaps First Minister Foster will
be able to offer some clarity while she is sipping champagne at the Conservative Party Conference."

The president of the Ulster Farmers Union, Barclay Bell, said that there "can now be no justification for delay."

"We know when the CAP will end, and we need to have something ready to take its place," he said.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, meanwhile, is due to attend a hearing at the High Court in Belfast on Tuesday morning in which a challenge to Brexit will be heard.

Mr Eastwood is one of several elected representatives who have jointly launched an appeal against the decision via the courts.

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