Tánaiste welcomes publication of draft EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement28/2/18
The European Commission has published today its proposed draft EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement which reflects the commitments agreed in Phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations. Welcoming the publication, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD, said:
"Today's publication by the Commission of its proposed draft withdrawal agreement is another important step in the Brexit negotiations. The draft includes a protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is an integral part of the draft agreement, and gives legal effect to the firm commitments made in December. This represents a logical outworking of the commitments made by the UK, including on protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland".
Commenting on the proposed protocol and in particular the provisions aimed at avoiding a hard border and protecting North South cooperation and the all-island economy, the Tánaiste added:
"We have always been clear that our preference is to avoid a hard border through a wider future relationship agreement between the EU and the UK, a view we share with the British government. We are also committed to exploring specific solutions to be proposed by the UK. At the same time, there is now the necessary legal provision to implement the backstop of maintaining full alignment in Northern Ireland with the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union necessary to protect North South cooperation and avoid a hard border. This is very much a default and would only apply should it prove necessary. This is about delivering on our shared objectives of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, no less, no more."
Speaking on the future EU-UK relationship, the Tánaiste said:
"We are looking forward to the further detail which Prime Minister May is due to provide later this week. Ireland has always been clear that we want the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK. In this regard, we will continue to work closely with our EU partners and with the UK on ensuring a good outcome to the Brexit negotiations that sees the impact on our trade and economy minimised. Agreeing transitional arrangements will also be important in that regard. I expect that these will be part of the Withdrawal Agreement, which should be finalised by October, with the status quo arrangements applying for the entire UK until the end of the transition in December 2020. This would give us enough time not just to help our citizens and businesses to prepare but to explore thoroughly all the options that would address fully the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland".
Concluding, the Tánaiste thanked Michel Barnier and his team for all their work and cooperation as well as EU partners for their continued support and solidarity:
"We have been working very closely with Michel Barnier and his team and this ongoing cooperation is very much appreciated. We are also very thankful to our EU partners, who continue to be steadfast in their support for Ireland as we work through the unique and serious implications of Brexit. We look forward to considering the draft withdrawal agreement with our EU partners in the coming weeks in advance of the Commission Task Force's negotiations with the UK on the proposed text."