I, as well as officials from my Department, continue to have frequent and ongoing contact with representatives from other EU27 Member States and the European Commission in order to promote Ireland’s positions on key policy areas relating to Brexit.
I attended the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU on 15 July and, while Brexit was not on the formal agenda, I held a bilateral meeting in the margins with my counterpart from Poland and will meet with other EU colleagues throughout the summer.
I also met with the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier on 19 July to take stock of developments relating to Brexit, ahead of the new UK Prime Minister taking office this week. The meeting strongly reaffirmed the EU’s position on support for the backstop, and that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. Mr. Barnier also welcomed the recent publication of the Government’s updated Brexit Contingency Action Plan.
At the start of this month, I accompanied President Higgins on his State Visit to Germany, and took part in meetings with the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as meeting with the Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth. Each of our interlocutors expressed Germany’s continued full solidarity with Ireland, and the view that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened.
My discussions with Mr. Barnier, and my colleagues throughout the EU, once again underline the strong solidarity with Ireland and the EU's absolute commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
We remain firmly of the view that the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. It is vital that the UK, and the new Prime Minister, uses the time up to 31 October to find a realistic way forward. Responsibility for avoiding a no deal Brexit lies firmly with the UK.