Apologies have been received from Senators Flynn and Joe O'Reilly.
I welcome members to this meeting of the Seanad Special Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. On correspondence, we have a number of matters to note. Correspondence on the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, dated 7 October 2021, was sent by the Houses of the Oireachtas liaison officer to the EU Parliament dated 7 October 2021. There is correspondence from the House of Lords European Affairs sub-committee on the protocol, dated 1 October 2021, regarding the proposed format of meeting with the clerk to the EU affairs committee. The third item is a brief note by the clerk to the committee, dated 7 October 2021, on the visit to the Northern Ireland Executive committee. Can I ask that correspondence be noted? Is that agreed? Agreed.
The minutes from our public meeting on 30 September also have to be noted. The meeting in question was terminated due to IT issues, but can we adopt the minutes in any event? Is that agreed? Agreed.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the dispute resolution mechanism for the trade and co-operation agreement, TCA, and the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union. I welcome our witnesses from the European Union division of the Department of Foreign Affairs: Ms Maeve Collins, director general; Ms Deirdre Farrell, director, EU-UK unit; and Mr. Karl Gardner, director, EU-UK unit.
I must inform our guests that witnesses giving evidence from within the parliamentary precincts are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence that they give to the committee. This means that a witness has a full defence in any defamation action for anything said at a meeting of the committee. However, witnesses are expected not to abuse this privilege and may be directed to cease giving evidence on an issue at the Chair's direction. Witnesses should follow the direction of the Chair in this regard. They are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that, as is reasonable, no adverse commentary should be made against an identifiable third party or entity.
As witnesses are all present in the committee room, there is no need for the next section. Privilege against defamation does not apply to the publication by witnesses outside the proceedings held by the committee of any matter arising from the proceedings.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I also remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located within the Leinster House complex. In this regard I ask all members prior to making their initial contribution to the meeting to confirm they are on the grounds of the Leinster House complex. If they are directed by the Chair to cease giving evidence on a particular matter, please respect that direction.
With regard to Covid-19 guidance, members and all in attendance are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. They are strongly advised to practise good hand hygiene and also to wear masks.
Without any further ado, I invite our witnesses to make their opening statements. I call Ms Collins.