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Government statement on outcome of ‘Meaningful Vote’ in Westminster

The Government regrets the outcome of the vote in Westminster this evening on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK Government and the European Union.

This outcome will add to uncertainty about the nature of the UK withdrawal from the EU. The Government urges the UK to set out how it proposes to move forward. We will then consider what next steps to take in consultation with our EU partners.

The Withdrawal Agreement was concluded, following lengthy and detailed negotiations, as a fair and balanced compromise to a very complicated situation. The Irish Government continues to believe that ratification of this Agreement is the best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK, which avoids a hard border and respects the single market and Customs Union, while also delivering on the UK’s objectives for withdrawal.

The Irish Government recalls the clear position of the European Council at its meeting of 13 December when it stated that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. This was restated in the joint letter from Presidents Tusk and Juncker to Prime Minister May yesterday.

Regrettably, the outcome of tonight’s vote increases the risk of a disorderly Brexit. Consequently, the Government will continue to intensify preparations for such an outcome. Earlier today, Cabinet discussed preparation for a ‘no deal’ Brexit in detail. Cabinet took a number of significant decisions, including the preparation of essential legislative measures as part of this ongoing work. This work which will intensify over the next few weeks.

The Irish Government recognises, however, that a disorderly Brexit is a bad outcome for everyone, not least in Northern Ireland. It is not too late to avoid this outcome and we call on the UK to set out how it proposes to resolve this impasse as a matter of urgency.