Brexit was discussed at the European Council, which met in Article 50 formation on 13 December, but it was not an item for discussion at the General Affairs Council. In its conclusions on Brexit, the European Council reiterated its commitment to an orderly UK withdrawal on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement and called for its timely ratification and effective implementation.
At its meeting of 13 December, the European Council reconfirmed its desire to establish the closest possible future relationship with the UK in line with the Political Declaration and based on a balance of rights and obligations and to ensure a level playing field.
To this end, the European Council has invited the European Commission to come forward with a comprehensive mandate for the EU-UK future relationship immediately after Brexit takes place. The General Affairs Council will adopt the relevant decisions and negotiating mandate.
Alongside our EU partners, we welcome the Commission's decision to reappoint Michel Barnier for the negotiations on the future relationship. These negotiations will continue to take pace in a manner of unity and transparency with all Member States and the European Council.
We have consistently supported the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK in the interests of Ireland, North and South, and British Irish relations, as well as in terms of our economic and trading priorities. Ireland also has significant interests in ensuring adequate level playing field provisions to facilitiate open and fair competition.
The European Council will follow negotiations closely and will agree further political decisions as necessary. Between European Council meetings, the General Affairs Council and COREPER, assisted by a dedicated working party, it will ensure that the negotiations are conducted in line with the overall positions and principles agreed by the European Council as well as the Council's negotiating mandate, with the aim of reaching a result that is fair for all Member States and in the interest of our citizens.