The 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.
Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities. Since the Referendum vote I have met directly on five occasions with various UK ministers who have responsibility for agriculture and fisheries to discuss issues relating to Brexit.
In December 2016 I met with Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in London, and we had an exchange of views on the implications of Brexit for the agri-food and fisheries sectors. I had a second meeting with her in January 2017 on the margins of an Agriculture Ministers' Conference in Berlin.
In April 2017 I met with George Eustice MP, the U.K. Minister of State for Agriculture Fisheries & Food on the margins of the AgriFish Council in Luxembourg. During this meeting I outlined the significant challenges that Brexit would pose for Ireland, particularly for the agri-food sector, and we also discussed issues in relation to fisheries.
In March and June 2018 I met Michael Gove MP in London, Andrea Leadsom’s successor as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I used those meetings to convey the Government’s concerns in relation to the ongoing negotiations and to reiterate Ireland’s concerns around the pace of the negotiations, especially on border issues.
In addition I would, on occasion, have had informal discussions on Brexit with my UK colleagues at Agri Fish Council meetings and Informal Council meetings since the Referendum vote in June 2016.