Foreign Affairs | Discussions and concern regarding potential UK proposals threatening the Good Friday Agreement
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will indicate, arising from his recent expressions of concern at the potential UK proposals to unilaterally set aside important parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol which could be seriously damaging to the Good Friday Agreement and could lead to a trade war; and if he will initiate an international diplomatic campaign with a view to ensuring that international agreements are kept in the letter and the spirit.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he had discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
As has been the case throughout the Brexit process, the Government continues to undertake a coordinated and consistent outreach campaign in support of our Brexit priorities. The Taoiseach, Ministers, and officials from Dublin and all our embassies continue to meet with our counterparts and stakeholders in the EU institutions and across Member States and globally. The EU’s commitment to Northern Ireland is undiminished.
I am in ongoing and intensive contact with our partners across the EU, including European Commission Vice-President Šefcovic, who I spoke to on 13 June about the UK Government’s publication of draft legislation on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. I was in Brussels at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday (20 June), where I met with a number of my EU counterparts. The Taoiseach spoke with PM Johnson on 10 May, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 16 June, and with European Council President Charles Michel on 17 June. Minister of State Byrne is also in close contact with his EU counterparts, including at the General Affairs Council on 21 June, where EU-UK relations were discussed. Opposition to the UK’s illegal unilateral action is uniform across the Union and support for the Commission approach remains steadfast.
I spoke by phone to UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on 13 June at the request of the UK Foreign Office, and expressed my deep disappointment at the UK’s proposed illegal actions. I made clear to her that no amount of vague language around protecting the Good Friday Agreement can denythe fact that the UK is planning to set aside a solemn agreement and to break international law. Far from fixing the challenges arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK government’s legislation will create a whole new set of uncertainties and damage relationships within Northern Ireland, across our islands, between our governments, and between the UK and the EU and its Member States.
The Government remains in contact, on an ongoing basis, with the US administration and key interlocutors in the United States who retain a keen interest in these developments. We welcomed a bipartisan Congressional Delegation, led by Congressman Richie Neal, to Dublin and Kerry in May. We are grateful for continued bipartisan US support for peace and stability in Northern Ireland throughout the Brexit process.
Despite the UK tabling its legislation on the Protocol, the EU remains open to talks on finding a joint solution, and has put forward further details on the practical solutions it published last October. We know the operation of the Protocol can be improved. Ireland has stated this clearly, as has the Commission. With political will, there are solutions to be found for the genuine issues of concern to people and business in Northern Ireland. Finding these solutions will allow Northern Ireland to experience in full the positive effects the Protocol can have on trade, investment, growth and employment.
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