Foreign Affairs | British-Irish relations and Northern Ireland engagement
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the latest position in regard to Brexit, with particular reference to an improvement in Anglo-Irish relations.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has had the opportunity in recent weeks to engage with the parties in Northern Ireland and his counterpart in the UK with a view to availing of every opportunity to address issues arising from Brexit.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he continues to engage with all sides in Northern Ireland with a view to bringing about an amicable solution to the aftermath of the Brexit issue with particular reference to the Northern Ireland protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
It is welcome that, for the first time in six months, the UK has re-engaged in talks with the EU on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. I am encouraged that the British side has indicated that it wishes to reach a negotiated outcome and it is vital that their officials are now given a clear mandate to make substantive progress. Time and space has been given to make progress on EU-UK talks and must be used constructively.
I know that there are genuine concerns about the implementation of the Protocol in Northern Ireland, particularly within the unionist community, and we and the European Commission have consistently engaged in order to understand these concerns. The EU presented proposals last October that responded directly to the issues raised by people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
I continue to maintain regular contact with the political parties in Northern Ireland. Last month, I travelled to Belfast to meet with party leaders and encouraged them to work together to establish an Executive. The position of the Government is consistent on this: we want to see an Executive formed and, separately, we want to see early substantive progress in EU-UK talks.
I have also had sustained and constructive engagement with the British Government on the implementation of the Protocol. Earlier this month, I met with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris in Belfast and in October I travelled to London to meet with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. The Taoiseach also met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the margins of the British-Irish Council earlier this month and Minister of State Byrne met with his British Government counterpart, Leo Docherty, last week.
Our consistent message in these exchanges has been to urge the British Government to engage positively with the EU and to remain focused on the practical, day-to-day issues of concern to people and businesses in Northern Ireland, in particular around the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We have emphasised that discussions on the implementation of the Protocol can proceed in parallel with work on formation of an Executive.
With the recent resumption in EU-UK talks, and with continued political will from the British Government, there is now a window of opportunity to reach joint solutions on the issues of concern to people in Northern Ireland.
The British-Irish relationship remains a vital one between close neighbours, trading partners, and co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. Partnership between the Irish and British Governments is vital for peace and prosperity on these islands and the Government remains committed to working with the British Government, to protect the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and to support peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
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