Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (418)

Neale Richmond


418. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of trade negotiations between the European Union and United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34982/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Negotiations on an EU-UK future relationship have entered an even more intensive phase since 21 October with negotiating teams working on a daily basis to close the gaps between the two sides.

The Deputies will appreciate that this process has reached a particularly sensitive point. It is clear that unlocking a deal will only be possible if appropriate arrangements are found on the key issues of the level playing field for open and fair competition, governance and on fisheries, a key national interest for Ireland.

Both sides agreed in intensifying the negotiations in October that regardless of progress in individual workstreams, nothing is agreed until an overall agreement is reached. Nevertheless we understand that progress has been made in recent weeks in a range of other areas of importance to Ireland, including on connectivity, as well as on police and judicial cooperation.

Any deal must involve compromises on all sides. However, a deal cannot come at any price. The EU cannot accept proposals that impact on the integrity of the Single Market or damage the long term political and economic interests of the Union. We recognise that the UK also has its red lines. The work of the negotiators is to find a set of arrangements that respects both the EU and UK’s values and interests, and that gives us a strong and sustainable framework for the vital cooperation between us.

Michel Barnier has our full support, and the support of the entire EU27, at this crucial moment in the negotiating process. As the EU’s Chief Negotiator, he has been central to the united, cohesive approach of the EU27 throughout the Brexit process, including during its most critical moments. The universal confidence and respect he inspires in EU capitals is testament to his efforts.

I and my colleagues in Government have remained in close contact with our European counterparts in the recent period. I would like to acknowledge the absolute support and solidarity that our EU partners have demonstrated unflaggingly throughout the Brexit process. They have always recognised the unique ways in which Ireland, north and south, is affected by Brexit. This concern has expressed itself through the EU mandate and draft legal text, and through the words and actions of our partners. I have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy their solidarity as we face the new challenges that will come with the end of the transition period.

Irrespective of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the end of the transition period will bring substantial and lasting change. This means that business and citizens must take action now to be ready for the first of January. I would particularly emphasise that with or without a trade deal, any business that moves goods from, to or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not apply to such trade today.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the House that regardless of the outcome of the talks, the full, effective and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol, remains vital. The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is explicitly designed to operate regardless of whether an EU-UK Future Relationship Agreement is in place.

I look forward to further updating the House as developments in the negotiations arise.