Brexit remains 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.
Without the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, there are no easy answers. A no deal Brexit will have severe economic and political implications for Ireland, North and South. The process of engagement with the European Commission, with its twin objectives of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it and at least avoiding physical infrastructure at the border on the island of Ireland, continues.
I have spoken with my EU counterparts about this work, and made clear that in addressing the border, Ireland is committed to protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland’s place in it. Our place in the Single Market is a vital part of our economic model and crucial to Ireland's prosperity.
EU partners have repeatedly made clear the EU’s solidarity with Ireland on this issue. The EU has been clear that it is determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process.
Unfortunately, any such arrangements in a no deal scenario will be temporary and will be sub-optimal compared to the backstop. This is why the backstop is an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and why we remain focussed on securing its ratification. As Michel Barnier has stated, it provides a “solution which preserves, on the one hand, the integrity of the United Kingdom and on the other, the Single Market, while respecting what we have committed to respect: the Good Friday Agreement.”
The need to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process will not disappear in a no deal scenario. We, with our EU partners, will insist that the issue of the border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement will need to be resolved as a condition for opening wider negotiations on the EU’s future relationship with the UK.