As the Deputy will be aware Brexit is a priority issue for this Government. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, my cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities.
Of course negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, both of which were endorsed by the European Council on 25 November, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce.
Since taking up office as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation in November 2017 I have met with various UK ministers to discuss matters of mutual interest, including in relation to trade. The impact of Brexit on the Irish-UK trading relationship provided an important context for these discussions.
In January 2018 I met with Hilary Benn MP and a group of UK Parliamentarians to discuss issues around the UK exiting the EU.
In February 2018 I met with Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, Mr Greg Hands MP.
In April 2018 during an EI trade mission to Manchester I met with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Andy Burnham at which Brexit, among other issues, was discussed.
In June 2018, on a visit to London I met with the Secretary of State for International Trade, Mr Liam Fox MP and with the Minister of State in the Department for International Trade, Mr Greg Hands MP. This meeting agenda focused on Ireland-UK trade, EU trade policy and global trade challenges.
During my visit to London in June I also met with the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ms Claire Perry MP to discuss industrial strategy and innovation.
In September 2018 in the course of a trade mission to Scotland, I met with the Scottish Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Mr Ivan McKee.
At various EU Council meetings this year I have met with various EU counterparts, including UK colleagues, both formally and informally. This included meetings with the UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Mr Greg Hands MP and, on two occasions with the U.K. Minister of State for Trade Policy, Mr George Hollingbery MP. Maintaining the strength of the Irish-UK trading relationship was a key focus of these discussions.
My Ministerial colleagues, Ministers of State Pat Breen and John Halligan have also, at various times, met with their UK counterparts.
Minister Breen met with the following UK counterparts:
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Lord Henley in March 2018 and in May 2018;
- Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown MSP in March 2018;
- Minister for State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Margot James in April 2018;
- Scottish Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee in August 2018;
- Minister of State for Trade Policy, Mr George Hollingbery in November 2018.
Minister Halligan met in February and May 2018 with the UK Minister for Higher Education and for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah.
Minister Halligan also met Minister Joseph Johnson, then Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation in Tallinn, Estonia on 24th July 2017 on the margins of the Informal meeting of Research Ministers. The purpose of the meeting was to enhance the existing bilateral research and innovation cooperation and identify new areas of opportunity for UK and Irish researchers and innovators to collaborate further.
The Deputy will be aware that the Government has already taken a number of key decisions on measures to support continued trade in the context of Brexit in areas of staffing, ICT and in terms of infrastructure that could be needed at our ports and airports.
In order to best support businesses, Government has also provided dedicated Brexit support measures in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Government officials are also working closely with the EU and fellow Member States to discuss and to facilitate the use of the UK as a landbridge to enable transit of goods to and from Ireland post Brexit.