The Minister of State for European Affairs, Dara Murphy TD, today held meetings in Brussels with counterparts from Bulgaria and Cyprus to discuss Brexit. In the meetings, the Minister engaged with both EU partners to get their perspective on Brexit, to discuss shared concerns and to highlight Ireland’s unique concerns, in particular with respect to the border and the Common Travel Area. The meetings took place on the margins of the monthly meeting of the General Affairs Council, as part of the Government’s ongoing engagement with EU partners at political and official level in advance of the triggering of Article 50 by the UK and the start of negotiations.
Discussions at this month’s General Affairs Council focused on preparing for the March summit of EU leaders, which will take place later this week. The meeting of EU Heads of State and Government, on 9-10 March, is due to focus on jobs, growth and competitiveness; security and defence; migration; and external relations, with a particular focus on the Western Balkans.
Speaking after his meetings in Brussels today, Minister Murphy commented:
“I held very positive meetings with my Bulgarian and Cypriot counterparts today to discuss Brexit, as part of my ongoing engagement, and that of my Government colleagues, with all of our EU partners and the institutions before negotiations begin. We discussed our shared concerns in relation to Brexit and I highlighted our unique Irish concerns, which were well understood. We also discussed the importance of preserving the unity of the EU27, which will be critical as negotiations progress."
Looking ahead to this week’s European Council, the Minister said:
“The main work of today’s meeting of Europe Ministers in the General Affairs Council was to prepare for the meeting of EU leaders later this week. Jobs, growth and competitiveness will be high on the agenda when the European Council meets on Thursday. We’re now seeing a very welcome return of growth across the EU, which we need to reinforce. Ireland and many of our like-minded partners would like to see a real push by leaders for further progress across the Single Market strategies - on services, on digital and capital markets, to further boost growth and jobs potential, for SMEs in particular.
“On the trade side, I welcome the recent European Parliament vote in favour of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Ireland supports the early provisional application of this agreement, which represents a major milestone in free trade and will provide welcome new opportunities for consumers and businesses. Equally, we are fully supportive of EU trade negotiations with Japan, which would open opportunities across a wide range of sectors."
Specifically, on relations with the Western Balkans, which will be discussed by EU leaders this week, the Minister said:
“In an increasingly challenging political environment, it is all the more important that we in the EU should reaffirm our commitment to the countries of the Western Balkans and to their European perspective. We must be clear with our partners in the region that the EU offers tangible benefits, both in economic terms and in relation to stability, and that the future of the Western Balkans lies in its relationship with the EU.”