The EU’s Chief Negotiator for the Article 50 negotiations, Michel Barnier, attended the All-Island Civic Dialogue in Dundalk on 30 April. Mr Barnier’s visit was yet another demonstration of the EU’s continued steadfast support for Ireland and commitment to addressing our specific concerns in the Brexit negotiations.
Mr Barnier delivered the keynote address to the All-Island Civic Dialogue and met with a range of individuals and groups in attendance. His participation over lunch in a meeting of the Brexit Stakeholder Forum, which I hosted, was particularly welcomed and useful. The Taoiseach and I also had a bilateral meeting with Mr Barnier in advance of his address to the All-Island Civic Dialogue. Our meeting offered an opportunity to take stock of the current state of play in the negotiations on both the future relationship and the draft Withdrawal Agreement, including progress on the draft Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
There was agreement at the meeting that significantly more progress is needed on the Protocol, including the backstop on avoiding a hard border, ahead of the June meeting of the European Council. Recalling the European Council Guidelines of 23 March 2018 and the principles that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full, there was also agreement that there can be no Withdrawal Agreement without a satisfactory agreement on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.