Commitment by British chancellor Philip Hammond on EU funding is welcomed
THE commitment by British chancellor Philip Hammond to honour all EU funding pledges until Brexit is complete has received a broad welcome.
In August, Mr Hammond said he would guarantee funds that were signed off ahead of his autumn statement, however, at the Conservative party conference on Monday the chancellor extended his pledge to the point at which the UK departs the EU.
The announcement provides greater certainty for businesses, farmers and other organisations who are largely reliant on funds from Brussels.
Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who had previously warned that up to £300m had been jeopardised by June's referendum result, said he welcomed the chancellor's "U-turn". But the Sinn Féin minister warned that the funding guarantee would not offset the economic "turbulence" ahead.
Mr Ó Muilleoir said he had previously stressed the need for further funding plegdes at meetings with the British Brexit Minister David Davis and in communications with the Treasury.
"I am pleased therefore that Mr Hammond has now seen sense and will underwrite all letters of offer made between now and when Brexit negotiations are concluded," he said.
"Missing, however, is a guarantee on how European Union funding streams will be replaced in the future."
The minister said he remained concerned about the impact of Tory government cuts to Stormont's resource budgets of 4 per cent over the next four years.
"Removing that threat to our budgets would be the single biggest stimulus the British government could provide to ensure we can navigate the choppy economic waters ahead," he said.
DUP MP Nigel Dodds also welcomed the chancellor's commitment.
"I am committed to ensuring that the Treasury continues to act in good faith in respect of EU funding that benefits Northern Ireland," he said.
"Getting the desired outcome for our province means working together positively and in an engaged manner."
Ulster Unionist finance spokesman Philip Smith said: "This will increase confidence levels of businesses and the community and voluntary sector who are reliant on structural and investment funds."