Following agreement on 17 October of a revised Withdrawal Agreement, the EU and the UK have committed to begin the formal process of negotiating a future relationship as soon as possible after the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
The framework for the future relationship negotiations is set out in the revised Political Declaration. The Declaration sets the course on what I hope will be a broad, deep and flexible partnership between the European Union and the UK, a partnership centred on a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement.
Our approach will remain consistent. We want to see the closest possible relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, while also ensuring adequate level playing field provisions to facilitate fair competition.
The talks will cover a range of issues of importance to Ireland and are likely to be demanding and difficult, as the Brexit negotiations have been to date.
We will continue to ensure our priorities and core principles are appropriately reflected. This will require a whole-of-government effort underpinned by the same coherent, cohesive approach that has characterised our Brexit strategy from the start. We will also continue to engage with stakeholders, our EU partners and the EU institutions.
The Commission has established a new Taskforce for Relations with the UK, led by Michel Barnier.
The outcome on Brexit remains uncertain and the Government is continuing to prepare for all scenarios. However, once the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, its provisions, including in respect of citizens’ rights, financial obligations and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, will remain in place, even if no agreement on a future relationship is reached by the end of the transition period.
More broadly, I believe that it is in our shared interest to maintain a strong and constructive bilateral relationship with the UK. We have deep familial, cultural, political and sporting links, as well as a vital trading relationship. The Government is committed to developing and strengthening these relationships over the coming years.