I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 to 113, inclusive, together.
Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I take every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities.
I remain in ongoing contact with my UK counterparts. I met with David Lidington in Dublin on 28 February, and again during my visit to London on 6 March, and since then by phone. I spoke with Michel Barnier over the weekend, during his visit to Dublin.
There have been an intensive series of meeting between the EU and the UK over the past few weeks, including between the British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, the UK Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, most recently on 6 March.
On 11 May Prime Minister May and President Juncker agreed a package of measures comprising of an “Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and a “Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” There was constant contact between our team and the Commission's team over the last number of days as these documents were being developed. The Taoiseach also spoke by phone with President Juncker before the package was agreed with Prime Minister May.
These documents are complementary to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration and aim to provide an additional layer of interpretation, clarification and elaboration to the United Kingdom. They provide the legal assurances sought by the UK on the temporary nature of the backstop, as well as additions to the political declaration on the future relationship setting clearly our commitment to finding alternative arrangements to the backstop.
The Government welcomes this agreement, and has backed this package of measures in the interests of securing an overall deal.
We regret the outcome of last night’s vote in the House of Commons and are disappointed that the UK Government has been unable to secure parliament approval of the Withdrawal Agreement.
It is now for the UK to set out what it intends to do next. We will be closely monitoring further developments and votes in Westminster in the coming days. There is still time for sensible solutions.