Minister of State for European Affairs and EU counterparts agree detailed mandate for opening of negotiations with the UK
Today, the General Affairs Council, meeting in its Article 50 format, completed the EU’s preparations for the first phase of negotiations with the UK on its withdrawal from the European Union. Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy T.D., represented Ireland at the meeting in Brussels.
The Council agreed a set of negotiating directives, which provide a mandate to the European Commission to open negotiations with the UK, based on the Guidelines adopted by the European Council on 29 April.
In particular, the directives fully reflect the EU Guidelines in expressing the goal of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including the need for flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. In addition, the directives address:
the need to take full account of the situation of Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland who will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens andthe need to address issues arising from Ireland’s unique geographic situation, including the transit of goods to and from Ireland via the UK
Speaking after the meeting, the Minister said:
“I am very happy with the negotiating directives agreed today, which confirm that a number of key EU and Irish concerns will be addressed during the first phase of the negotiations.
The EU has been clear that its priority will be to achieve as much clarity and legal certainty as possible for businesses and citizens. This is an approach that the Ireland fully supports.
The directives that I have agreed with my counterparts today deliver on the objectives the Government identified in its comprehensive document published earlier this month.
They are fully in line with our approach to the priorities we share with other EU Member States, including on citizens’ rights and the UK’s financial liabilities, as well as in relation to the challenges and issues that are unique to Ireland.
This reflects the intensive engagement that I, along with the Taoiseach, and Minister Flanagan, have undertaken over the past eleven months, explaining in detail our position to our EU partners.
Our EU partners have not only listened to us, but are actively engaging with our concerns. I would like to acknowledge in particular the work Michel Barnier and his team, who clearly demonstrated the EU's commitment to seeking solutions to Ireland's particular issues during the visit to Ireland earlier this month.
His initiative in visiting the border region was particularly welcome and I know that this was greatly appreciated by the communities and businesses concerned.
The fundamental importance to Ireland of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland is a point that I stressed again at today’s meeting.
I also underlined our commitment that any solutions reached must also protect the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.
Of course, I am under no illusion as to the challenge that resolving these issues will pose. Some two months into the envisaged timeframe for the Article 50 negotiations, the priority now must be to ensure that the process gets underway as soon as possible.
The directives agreed today provide a firm basis upon which Ireland – as part of the EU27 team – can work to achieve sufficient progress on these issues in the first phase of the negotiations with the UK, along with the other key EU priorities of citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.
This will be vital in ensuring that we can move on to phase 2 of the negotiations at as early a stage as possible, where discussions on the future EU-UK relationship, including in relation to trade, will be initiated in parallel with the detailed negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.
I have no doubt that there will be difficulties and challenges to be overcome in the weeks and months ahead of us. But we must never lose sight of the fact that both the EU and the UK share the goal of achieving the closest level of cooperation in the future. I am confident that, with a constructive approach on both sides, we can deliver such an outcome.”
Note for Editors
The General Affairs Council meets in its “Article 50” format to enable the 27 remaining EU Member States to discuss the EU’s position for the negotiations on the UK's withdrawal.
On 2 May, the Government published a comprehensive document on Ireland and the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.