Throughout the Article 50 process I, as well as officials from my Department, have had frequent and ongoing contact with representatives from other EU27 Member States, the Commission and the Article 50 Task Force headed by Michel Barnier, as well as the UK.
I last met with Mr Barnier on 8 April during his visit to Dublin in advance of the European Council. On that occasion we discussed preparations for the European Council meeting, and the question of an extension to Article 50. On that occasion, Mr Barnier also held meetings with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe. I also met him again briefly on the margins of the General Affairs Council (Article 50) in Luxemborg on 9 April.
Since the European Council (Article 50) meeting of 10 April, and the decision to extend the date of the UK's departure from the European Union until 31 October, my officials have been, and will continue to be, in regular contact with both the Article 50 Taskforce and the Commission's Brexit Preparedness Group to discuss and review ongoing developments.
There is complete agreement that responsibility for avoiding a no-deal Brexit firmly lies with the UK. At the same time, there is deep concern about the ongoing political impasse in the UK and real disappointment that the cross-party talks between the Government and the Labour Party ended without agreement. Unfortunately, it is our assessment that the risk of a no-deal Brexit is very real and therefore we continue to work urgently on no-deal preparedness.
My most recent discussions with Mr. Barnier and my colleagues throughout the EU once again underlined the strong solidarity with Ireland and the EU's absolute committment, notwithstanding the ongoing political impasse in the UK, to protect the Good Friday Agreement. As the European Council made clear again on 10 April, the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, cannot be renegotiated, and any unilateral commitments by the UK Government should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement. However, should the position of the UK evolve, such as in the area of customs, then the EU would be prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship.
The European Council will review the current situation at its meeting on 20-21 June. This discussion will be prepared at the General Affairs Council (Article 50) on 18 June, at which I will have another opportunity to meet Mr. Barnier.