Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (139)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

139. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if all papers from the discussions between EU officials and the UK on the most recent attempts to get a resolution to the withdrawal treaty by the British Attorney General, Mr. Geoffrey Cox, will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12838/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

It is for the UK and the European Commission to decide on the release of any documents exchanged between them in the course of Brexit discussions. They have not done so in respect of the discussions between them earlier this month. The Commission regularly briefed Coreper orally on progress.

At the conclusion of the Commission-UK discussions, on 11 March, Prime Minister May and President Juncker agreed an “Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and a “Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” These documents were approved by the European Council (Article 50) on 21 March.

This followed an intensive series of meetings between the EU and the UK, at various levels, including between the British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, the UK Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier.

There was constant contact between our team and the Commission's team as these documents were being developed, and the Taoiseach spoke by phone with President Juncker before the package was agreed with Prime Minister May.

These documents are complementary to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration and aim to provide clarification and assurances sought by the UK on the intended temporary nature of the backstop, as well as additions to the political declaration on the future relationship setting clearly our commitment to finding alternative arrangements to the backstop.

The European Council on 21 March approved these documents and again made clear that the Withdrawal Agreement is not to be reopened.

We hope that the House of Commons will now approve the Withdrawal Agreement, to allow for an orderly withdrawal on 22 May 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by Westminster, the European Council agreed to extend Article 50 until 12 April – a key date in terms of European Parliament elections – and UK must indicate a way forward before this date, which the EU will consider. Responsibility now lies with Westminster and the UK Government. The EU has done all it can.