I have met with my colleague the UK Chancellor Sajid Javid, on three occasions since he took office. On 6 August in London, on 13 September in Helsinki at the informal ECOFIN meeting, and most recently I hosted him in Farmleigh House for a bilateral meeting on 19 September.
My meetings with Chancellor Javid have provided an opportunity to engage constructively on the strong relationship between our countries, the importance of trade between the two economies, and on the many areas of common interest shared by Ireland and the UK.
Whilst of course Article 50 negotiations are a matter for the EU Commission, through the Article 50 taskforce, led by M. Barnier, this meeting was also an occasion to exchange perspectives on Brexit and provided a useful opportunity to better understand the UK Government perspective in the negotiations and to outline the Irish Government position.
In our discussion, the Chancellor set out the current position of the UK Government and I in turn outlined the Irish Government and EU 27’s well-stated position that, while we are open to considering detailed, credible and legally-operable UK proposals, unless and until it is shown that any alternative arrangements can achieve the same aims as the backstop, the EU position remains that the Withdrawal agreement, including the backstop is the only way forward. I welcomed the intensification of discussions between the European Commission and the UK. I also outlined the importance of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.