Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (74)

Danny Healy-Rae


74. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the preparation his Department is making in anticipation of either a hard or soft border. [20509/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process is at the forefront of the Government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. This includes the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts and the gains of the peace process, maintaining EU support for the Peace Process, supporting continued North South cooperation and ensuring there is no border infrastructure of any kind on the island of Ireland.

In the December Joint Report of EU and UK negotiators, the UK committed to ensuring there would be no border infrastructure of any kind or associated checks and controls on the island of Ireland. This commitment must now be given legal effect in the Withdrawal Agreement

Work on drafting the Withdrawal Agreement has been a key focus since December. Published on 28 February, it contains a draft Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is an integral part of the Agreement.

The UK has accepted that a legally operative version of the ‘backstop’ for the border will be included in the Withdrawal Agreement, in line with paragraph 49 of the Joint Progress Report agreed last December, and that all the issues identified in the draft Protocol reflect those that must be addressed. These were important steps forward.

The current schedule of negotiations now underway between the EU and the UK is being taken forward with a view to continuing efforts to narrow the remaining gaps on the draft Protocol, among other issues.

Significant progress is needed between now and the June European Council. At this stage in the negotiations, it is more important than ever that the UK provides more detailed and realistic proposals to the EU.

Ireland’s interest is in trying to achieve an outcome as close as possible to the status quo on the island.

Ideally, this would be achieved through the wider EU-UK future relationship agreement. Such an agreement would also minimise or eliminate any new frictions in East/West trade - this would also be strongly in our interests.

But we need to have a backstop in case that proves not to be possible, and that backstop needs to be clearly defined as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

All sides have been clear since the start that the unique and special situation on the island of Ireland requires unique solutions. This was confirmed in the EU-UK Joint Progress report of last December and this is our present focus in the negotiations.

The importance of avoiding a hard border cannot be underestimated and the Government is acutely conscious of this. The North South cooperation we enjoy today brings tangible benefits to the daily lives of people north and south and contributes to economic opportunity and development. It is also a very practical outworking of the peace process which allows for the normalisation of relationships between people across the island, to mutual benefit. It is for these reasons that there cannot be a return to border infrastructure of any kind on this island.

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 64.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 47.
Question No. 77 answered with Question No. 69.