21 Oct 2019, 17.43

The 59th Plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly opened today, with addresses from speakers including Robin Walker, Emily Thornberry, Christopher Pincher and Michael Russell.

United Kingdom Minister for Europe and the Americas, Rt Hon Christopher Pincher, reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, Common Travel Area, open border and north-south institutions. He underlined the UK Government’s determination to maintain a good relationship with Ireland now, and beyond Brexit.

Under-Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office, Robin Walker MP, praised BIPA’s role in maintaining a strong bond between the United Kingdom and Ireland. He stated that the Secretary of State of State for Northern Ireland was working hard to bring parties back together to restore the Northern Ireland Executive.

Robin Walker MP argued that the current Brexit deal is in the best interests of Northern Ireland, and no deal would be damaging. He underlined its benefits for Northern Ireland including continued access to single market, as well as future trade deals the UK will agree, maintenance of the open border and single electricity market.

Shadow Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Emily Thornberry MP, called for the final decision on Brexit to be put back to the people and for the UK to remain in the European Union. She underlined the importance of keeping Northern Ireland at the centre of considerations. She also highlighted the crucial challenge of tackling climate change and the importance of the UK doing all it can to mitigate the impact as early as possible.

Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, welcomed the agreement of a Brexit deal and praised the willingness to compromise from the UK, Ireland and the EU. He praised the deal’s commitment to maintaining the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, north-south co-operation and prevention of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Ambassador O’Neill lamented the anniversary of 1,000 days without devolved government in Northern Ireland, but welcomed progress in talks between parties to restore the government and executive. The Ambassador further underlined the importance of establishing new ways of continued dialogue between the UK and Ireland once the UK leave the EU.

Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations in the Scottish Government, talked of the damage to Scotland that Brexit would cause. He criticised the principle of Scotland being removed from the European Union without the consent of the Scottish people. Mr Russell further called for a referendum for the Scottish people to decide whether they wished to remain in the UK and leave the EU, or stay in the European as an independent nation.

The Plenary agreed two report that will be published tomorrow (22 October) at 8.30am:

  • Committee A (Sovereign Matters) – Illicit Trade and the Border

  • Committee C (Economic) – Revitalisation of the High Street

British Co-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Andrew Rosindell MP said: “Today, the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly truly showed its value. We heard presentations from representatives of the UK Government, Official Opposition, Scottish Government, and the Irish Ambassador who each gave a valuable insight into the current state of Brexit and how it should proceed. While of course each member of BIPA will have a different opinion on what they have heard, they will certainly have come away with a better understanding of the differing perspectives of fellow members. That is why we are here today, not to develop a uniform opinion, but to ensure that irrespective of the outcome of Brexit we work hard to maintain strong relations between the UK, Ireland and Crown Dependencies.”

Irish Co-Chair, Sean Crowe TD, said: “The updates we received throughout the first day of the Plenary regarding Brexit, and the opportunities for all members to engage on this very important topic were invaluable. Today’s British Irish Parliamentary Assembly underlined the importance and influence of the Assembly. At the heart of everything we do is to promote co-operation between political representatives in Britain and Ireland for the benefit of the people we all represent. We saw this in the Reports which were discussed regarding the revitalisation of the High Street and also the discussion around illicit trade. Clearly there are challenges, and it is important that these topics are discussed locally in parliaments and practical suggestions come back from individual jurisdictions.”

Schedule of business for 22 October

At 9.30 am: meeting in public session

15.      COMMITTEE D (ENVIRONMENT & SOCIAL) will present its Report to the Assembly

“THE CROSS-JURISDICTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF ABORTION POLICY IN THE

BIPA JURISDICTIONS”

At about 10.15 am:

PANEL DISCUSSION AND DEBATE ON A MOTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Mike Thompson, Head of Carbon Budgets at the Committee on Climate Change and Antony Froggatt, Chatham House will address the Assembly on the subject of the following motion to be moved on behalf of the Steering Committee:

That this British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly declares an environment and climate emergency following the finding of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change that to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050; welcomes the commitments made by various governments within the BIPA jurisdictions to achieve that target by 2050; and calls on all those governments to work together and collaboratively in so doing.

At about 11.15 am

17.       ADDRESS BY THE WELSH GOVERNMENT’S COUNSEL GENERAL AND BREXIT MINISTER

Jeremy Miles AM, Counsel General and Brexit Minister, Welsh Government, will address the Assembly and respond to questions.   

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