First meeting of the new East-West Council takes place in London

The East-West Council was formed in the agreement that brought the DUP back to power-sharing and aims to improve business and educational links across the United Kingdom.

The first meeting of the newly established East-West Council will take place on Tuesday, with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, Michael Gove chairing the meeting.

The meeting which is being held in Dover House in London, will be attended by the First and Deputy First Ministers, Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State Steve Baker, and other ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive, including Economy Minister Conor Murphy and Communities Minister Gordon Lyons.

No representatives from the Scottish or Welsh devolved governments are attending the meeting today. The Department for Levelling Up told The Newsletter that the “UK Government and Northern Irish ministers are agreeing priorities and expect the devolved nations to be involved going forward”.

“The government is committed to working with our partners in the Northern Ireland Executive and across the UK to address shared challenges and opportunities including with an east-west dimension.”

– Michael Gove MP, Minister for Intergovernmental Relations

The East-West Council was established as part of the ‘Safeguarding the Union’ command paper in January 2024 – it was part of the negotiations that led the DUP back to Stormont.

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said that “The United Kingdom is the most successful political Union the world has ever seen. If we are to build on this foundation however, a joined-up approach between the Government and each of the devolved administrations is essential.”

“On the agenda today are plans for getting Intertrade UK up and running. This organisation will promote trade within the UK and support traders to provide goods and services for the whole UK. I am delighted that we will also discuss a prospectus for investment in Northern Ireland.” she continued.

“Make no mistake, there are those who talk but have failed to deliver anything. The DUP will leave no stone unturned as we seek to use the East-West Council and Intertrade UK to usher in a new era of cooperation and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called for the urgent restoration of the North South Ministerial Council to advance all island cooperation following the resumption of devolved government earlier this year

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has said that the operation of the North South Ministerial Council is essential, and is not an “optional extra”.

“I am concerned that the NSMC, a core institution of the Good Friday Agreement, has yet to be convened following the restoration of power sharing. The principle that ministers will work together on areas of substantial mutual interest is an important part of consent for devolved government, the operation of the council is not an optional extra – it is essential. The erosion of North-South cooperation is one of the significant failures of devolution to date, we cannot let that continue.

“It is particularly concerning that the NSMC with its statutory remit has yet to be re-established while a new ‘East-West Council’, designed and established as part of discussions between the DUP and the British Government which excluded nationalists and others, has already been convened and given credibility as a result of the First Minister’s attendance.”

– SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood MP

He also confirmed that the SDLP will write to the First and Deputy First Ministers and the Irish Government to ensure that “North-South cooperation is restored”.

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