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Foreign Affairs | Post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has had discussions with his UK counterpart and the parties in Northern Ireland with the view to minimising the impact of Brexit and fluctuations on the British economy arising therefrom, with the view to maximising the element of north-south cooperation.

Recognising that Brexit would profoundly impact Northern Ireland, the UK and the European Union agreed through the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland arrangements for mitigating those impacts and protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions. The Protocol places Northern Ireland in a uniquely advantageous position, with access to both the EU’s single market as well as the UK market: real opportunities are already being realised by high-end manufacturers and dairy farmers, among others.

I have had sustained and detailed engagement with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the Protocol. Most recently, I have had a call with the new Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley, and a meeting in Hillsborough Castle with the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris. Both these exchanges have been positive. Our focus must be on finding solutions around the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, which is the issue of most practical concern to people and businesses. Working together, we can maximise the benefits of the Protocol and address genuine concerns.  

In terms of North South cooperation, the Deputy will be aware that it is a matter of serious concern that the work of the NSMC has been disrupted and impeded and that the Council has not been able to meet, in any of its configurations, since 2021.

In the absence of meetings of the NSMC, we are not able to have the important, regular discussions that should be taking place between the two Administrations on the island on the shared challenges that we are facing, and on opportunities to respond to those challenges in a coordinated way.

While much of the current political focus is understandably placed on ensuring that the Strand One institutions, the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, can resume their normal work, we also need to see the NSMC back in action without delay.

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