The Government must ensure that there will be no change or diminution to the backstop proposal as agreed in December 2017. This is essential in the further negotiations between Britain and the European Union in relation to Brexit.
Below is reply by the Foreign Affairs Minister to my most recent Parliamentary Question –
For Written Answer on : 20/09/2018
Question Number(s): 46 Question Reference(s): 38193/18
Department: Foreign Affairs and Trade
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
Question No. 46
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there will be no change or diminution to the backstop proposal as agreed in December 2017 in negotiations between Britain and the European Union in relation to Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Brendan Smith.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20th September, 2018.
Ref No: 38193/18
From the outset of these negotiations, the Government has been clear and consistent in our position that a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland must be avoided under any circumstances. A legally operable ‘backstop’ which avoids a hard border and protects the integrity of the single market is essential for agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement, so as to provide the certainty that no matter what the outcome of the negotiations on the future relationship, there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.
While our preference would be to see these issues resolved through the future relationship, this ‘backstop’ must be legally operable and, in the event that it is triggered, must be in place unless and until another solution is found. It cannot be temporary. This is what we agreed to, and what the UK committed to in December last year, and it is what the EU will hold them to.
On Tuesday I met with Michel Barnier and heard from him his assessment that it is time to ‘de-dramatise’ the Protocol and focus on agreeing the workable solutions that it offers at its core. Ireland fully supports this approach. Barnier confirmed once again his view that without a backstop there can be no Withdrawal Agreement.
This support was echoed by our partner EU27 Member States at the GAC Article 50 the same day, and I remain grateful to them for the unity displayed in recognition of this as an essential element of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Both sets of negotiators have committed to bringing new energy to the talks, including on the Irish specific issues, and I welcome this. We remain confident that a deal can be reached, and refuse to be distracted by speculation or mischaracterisation of what the backstop is.
We cannot allow uncertainty about the border. It is not an academic issue, but one that affects the lives of tens of thousands of people every day, and has an impact on the peace process as well. A backstop that does not guarantee to remove this uncertainty is not acceptable to us, to the Task Force, or to the EU27. This shared position has, and will, remain constant.