The Government is determined to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, and the gains and benefits of the Peace Process, are protected for people on the island of Ireland, North and South.
The Government appreciates the solidarity and support which has been shown by all of our EU partners in respect of Ireland’s unique issues and concerns.
The principle of consent and the possibility of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are fundamental elements of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of this island North and South.
The Good Friday Agreement states that “it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.
The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement as endorsed by the European Council and agreed with the British Government protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
Article 1(1) of the Protocol confirms that it is “without prejudice to the provisions of the 1998 Agreement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent, which provides that any change in that status can only be made with the consent of a majority of its people.”
The Government remains firmly of the view that the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement as endorsed by the European Council and agreed with the British Government. The European Council has made clear that it stands by the Withdrawal Agreement and that it is not for renegotiation.
The Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop provisions, is the only agreement on the table that provides the essential legal guarantee to avoid a hard border in any circumstances and protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
Under any scenario for the UK’s exit from the European Union, the obligations and commitments of the Irish and British Governments under the Good Friday Agreement remain and the Government will continue to work with the British Government as co-guarantor to secure the full implementation of the Agreement and the effective operation of all of its institutions.