The outcome of the vote of 23 June 2016 in the UK will have implications across all aspects of the business of the European Union. While the vote does not give rise to fundamental strategic issues for Defence Forces operations or for Ireland’s continuing engagement within the EU in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), it is expected that Brexit will have an impact on future developments in the Defence sphere.
In my role as Minister for Defence, I continue to engage with my EU counterparts to highlight Ireland’s concerns in relation to Brexit and to ensure that these concerns are fully reflected in the EU position during negotiations. My activities are reinforced by extensive engagement at diplomatic and official level. At Ministerial level there is ongoing contact as required with my EU colleagues both in the context of European Defence and Security, and other matters, including Brexit.
In addition to bilateral and multilateral exchanges, two official meetings of EU Defence Ministers are held during each six month EU Presidency. The most recent informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers took place in Sofia on 05 May 2018. I was in attendance at this meeting and participated in discussions that covered a wide range of European Defence and Security issues and associated challenges.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the formal and informal meetings of Ministers at EU level provide a significant opportunity for me to engage bilaterally with Ministers from other Member States on issues of concern to Ireland, both within the scope of the Ministerial but also more broadly. When attending European Council meetings, I avail of the opportunity to engage in informal bilateral discussions with my EU colleagues en-marge of these meetings, which is an important aspect of Ministerial attendance, and where I have raised the issue of Brexit and Ireland’s key considerations, as and when the opportunity arises.
As recently as last Tuesday, I met with the UK Ambassador to Ireland where again I outlined Ireland's position on a number of Brexit related matters.
The Deputy will also be aware, the Government has adopted a contingency framework to deal with all issues arising in respect of the UK vote to leave the EU. Accordingly, any issues arising, including those within the Defence area, whether bilateral, or in respect of developments in CSDP, or regarding our wider international multilateral defence engagements, will be also addressed within that framework.