As I have previously advised the House in my response to Dáil Question No. 273 of 19 September last, negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce.
An agreement was reached on a revised Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration between the EU and the UK and was endorsed unanimously by the European Council on 17 October. It now requires ratification by the European and British Parliaments. On 28 October, EU 27 leaders unanimously agreed an extension to the Article 50 process, with a view to allowing for the final ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. This averted the risk of a no deal Brexit on 31 October, by extending the deadline to 31 January 2020. However, if the Agreement is ratified before then the UK exit could take place earlier.
We continue work to prepare for the UK’s exit. Even with an agreement, it is still the case that the UK is leaving the EU and this will bring change. It is important that Ireland is ready for that change, both for our citizens and our businesses. We will continue our preparations for all scenarios.
As I have previously advised, in the course of my visit to London last year, in connection with the GB 18 Programme, I met with Matt Hancock MP, the then UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. I also met with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs in the course of my visit to Glasgow in connection with GB18. At all of these meetings, while noting that Brexit negotiations are conducted between the EU and the UK, Brexit related matters were discussed in addition to other matters of mutual interest. While I again met with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs earlier this year in Dublin, this was related to the launch of the Words that Bind Us project and did not include a discussion on Brexit or other policy matters.
In the interests of completeness I would also like to advise that following the visit of the then Aire Stáit, Joe McHugh T.D. to Glasgow in May 2018, Údarás na Gaeltachta in recognition of, and in preparation for Brexit, agreed a Trade Office arrangement with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the end of 2018. The arrangement, under which, reciprocal trade offices are being established to provide business support services to companies and facilitate investment and trade opportunities, will act as a valuable resource for SME's looking to expand their international business to business partnerships.