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Statement by First Minister Arlene Foster on EU Referendum

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Speaking in the Assembly today, the First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Mr Speaker following the outcome of the referendum the deputy First Minister and I will act to represent the best interest of Northern Ireland.

“Until such times as any new arrangements are negotiated and take effect, we want to make it clear that business continues as usual and the flow of goods and services and normal travel arrangements remain in place.

“We want to assure citizens from other EU countries living here that we value and recognise the contribution that they make to our society.

“The priority of the Executive will be to ensure Northern Ireland’s interests are protected and advanced and that new opportunities are developed as part of any new arrangements within the UK and the Republic of Ireland as well as with our European neighbours.

“We will seek to work with Executive colleagues to plan for the new realities and to maximise the benefits to Northern Ireland of this changed situation.

“Mr Speaker we were elected with a massive mandate to work for our people and we remain determined to do so. We have a window of opportunity in the coming months in order to ensure that we do all we can to deliver the best possible outcome for all our people.

“We have already spoken to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The deputy First Minister and I have also requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister in the coming weeks to discuss matters further.

“We will meet with the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, next Monday to commence discussions on the nature of our relationship going forward.

“Executive Ministers have been in contact with each other throughout the weekend and over the course of today. A full meeting of the Executive will take place on Wednesday at which the main discussion point will be how we deliver the best possible outcomes for Northern Ireland.

“Sir Malcolm McKibbin as head of the Civil Service has also held formal discussions with his UK counterpart this afternoon.

“We have asked the Head of the Civil Service to establish individual departmental teams at senior level and to put in place an overarching central administrative and political governance structure as well as formal East/West, North/South and EU liaison teams that will report directly to the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

“Each Executive Department will establish a senior team to consider the potential implications for their department’s functions, legislation and regulations as well as identifying future challenges and opportunities.

“These teams will liaise with Whitehall, Irish and EU counterparts to ensure we get the best possible deal we can for Northern Ireland.

“For our part as leaders of the Executive we are agreed and determined that our specific circumstances in Northern Ireland must be accounted for in any new arrangements that are developed.

“The Chief Executive of Invest NI is this week in the US and will establish a liaison group with the business community in Northern Ireland.

“In terms of foreign direct investment we almost exclusively target cost centre opportunities as we do not yet have a tax/profit advantage.

“Cost centres are mainly offshore service centres for their parent operations, and the majority of them are USA or GB based, so market access is not an issue for them.

“You will know that our proposition majors on two key factors – Talent and Cost. Those have not changed, and we expect to continue to drive forward on FDI.

“If you consider the list of FDI successes over the past five years – Allstate, Concentrix, Alexander Mann, Deloitte, PWC, EY, CME, WhiteHat, Capita, Cayan, Baker McKenzie, Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith Freehills, Concentrix, Teleperformance, etc.

“All of these are servicing either USA or UK.

“Sir Malcolm McKibbin will travel to Brussels later this week to meet with our MEPs, British, Irish and EU representatives as well as meeting with senior Whitehall representation next week in London.

“Representatives from our three international offices in Brussels, Washington and Beijing will consider implications from their perspectives and provide briefings to us shortly.

“We are determined, to use our influence to build for the future, provide stable leadership at home and reassure those concerned that Northern Ireland will continue to be an excellent place to do business.

“The coming weeks and months will, I have no doubt, present many challenges but both the deputy First Minister and I made it clear that whatever the outcome of the referendum that we would work together to do what is right for Northern Ireland.”

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