Protecting Ireland's interests in the context of the UK decision to leave the EU continues to be a priority for this Government. The Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with EU partners and with the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities, interests and concerns in this regard.
I have repeatedly discussed the Government’s concerns around the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland with my British counterparts and with political leaders in Northern Ireland. From the outset, I have highlighted the risks which Brexit poses for Northern Ireland and for the Good Friday Agreement. I have repeatedly stated that a no deal Brexit is in no one’s interests, least of all for the people of Northern Ireland. Over the course of the last several months, I have discussed our concerns with the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley; and David Lidington, the UK Minister of the Cabinet Office. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to raise these issues in my contacts with all relevant interlocutors in Britain, Northern Ireland, and at EU level.
The Government remains firmly convinced that the Withdrawal Agreement remains the only way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal, in a manner that protects the Single Market and the hard-won gains of the Good Friday Agreement. The backstop is the only viable solution on the table that avoids physical infrastructure and related checks and controls, preserves the all-island economy and fully protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, as well the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.
There should be no illusions in the UK that a change in political circumstances will convince the EU to make changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop. It cannot be opened or renegotiated. The European Council has made this consistently clear.
It is now more important than ever that all sides in the UK assume their responsibilities and ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, which provides much-needed legal certainty.
Let me be clear, however, that the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process does not disappear in a no deal scenario. Together with our partners in the EU, we will continue to insist that the issue of the border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement will need to be resolved as a condition for opening wider negotiations on the EU’s future relationship with the UK.
In the case of a no deal scenario, we will continue to work with the Commission on the shared twin objectives of protecting the integrity of the single market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Ireland is strongly committed to our EU membership, and to the Single Market, which remains central to the success of our open, competitive economy and has been the foundation for much of the economic and social progress we have made in recent decades. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, Ireland will remain in the EU with all the stability and certainty that membership brings.