BREXIT

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Through Parliamentary Questions, Dáil Debates and in numerous discussions both at the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence Committee and the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement I have consistently highlighted to Government the need to ensure that there must be no diminution in the workings or the potential of the Good Friday Agreement.

Recently I asked the Government, through further Parliamentary Questions, to give clear commitments that there will be no change to the backstop proposal as agreed in December 2017. These are all critical issues in relation to Britain’s exit from the European Union and its effects on all of this island.

Unpicking of the Good Friday Agreement, an International Agreement, agreed between the Irish and British Governments and overwhelmingly endorsed in referenda both North and South will not be acceptable or cannot even be countenanced.

REPLIES TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS ATTACHED

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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.

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 QUESTION

 REPLY

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

REPLY

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.

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For Written Answer on : 26/09/2018

Question Number(s): 112 Question Reference(s): 39103/18

Department: Foreign Affairs and Trade

Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.

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QUESTION 

 REPLY

Question No. 112

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the backstop proposal in relation to Brexit following the recent EU Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Brendan Smith.
* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 26th September, 2018.
Ref No: 39103/18 Proof: 78

REPLY

Following the informal European Council Summit in Salzburg on 20 September, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, restated the EU’s position that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally-binding Irish backstop. EU Leaders at the Summit reaffirmed their full support for Michel Barnier in his negotiations, including his efforts to ‘de-dramatise’ the backstop.

Subsequently, on 21 September Prime Minister May stated that the UK would bring forward its own proposals on the backstop. The Government welcomes this initiative, and would urge that this is done as a matter of urgency, so that the negotiating teams can engage constructively on finalising the legal text of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The EU is of course willing to consider these proposals once tabled by the UK but has been clear that outcome must be fully consistent with the agreement reached in the Joint Progress Report of last December and the clear commitments and guarantees provided by the UK.

The October European Council meeting on 18 October remains the target to achieve maximum progress and results in the negotiations. At that meeting, Ireland and our EU partners would then decide if conditions are sufficient to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalize the deal. Real progress on the backstop will be an essential part of that decision.

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.

Time is running short. As the Taoiseach said in Salzburg, we need to redouble our efforts over the coming weeks to make sure that we can successfully complete negotiations and agree a deal.

 

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