Northern Ireland news

Brexit: Stormont's pro-Remain parties slam Theresa May for meeting 'snub'

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Mark Marlow

STORMONT'S pro-Remain parties have criticised Theresa May for "refusing" to hold a meeting with them.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party wanted to hold joint discussions with the British prime minister.

A joint delegation of the four parties are due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and have already had discussions with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the British prime minister "turned down" a request for talks with the parties.

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"This is just the latest example of the contempt for democracy being shown by Theresa May's government," she said.

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"By refusing to meet their representatives, Theresa May is... ignoring the democratic will of the majority in the north who voted to reject Brexit."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that Mrs May "refusing to meet the pro-Remain parties is disgraceful but not surprising".

He said on Twitter: "She needs to stop pandering to the DUP and the Brexiteers in her own party. She got the message from Europe last night – there will be no deal without a workable, legally binding backstop."

The Alliance Party expressed disappointment, saying that Mrs May "claims to be acting on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland but is only listening to the DUP".

Green Party leader Steven Agnew said Mrs May was "making a mistake by listening only to the extreme minority view of the DUP".

The British prime minister met with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Ms O'Neill earlier this week.

It's also understood the five main parties have been offered a meeting with the British government's negotiating team in Brussels as well Mrs May's chief of staff.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The UK government regularly engages with the Northern Ireland parties on a range of issues, including on EU exit, and will continue to offer these engagements.

"The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland met all five main parties on Monday October 8 and will meet them again soon."

In the EU referendum in 2016, Northern Ireland voters backed Remain by 56 per cent but overall 52 per cent in the UK voted Leave.

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