Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Ceisteanna (357, 373, 374, 375)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

357. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has spoken to his UK counterpart regarding the premature triggering of Article 16 by the European Commission. [7289/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

373. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of communications with his colleagues in the European Commission to ensure that the premature triggering of Article 16 was an isolated incident. [7288/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

374. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has engaged with his colleagues in the EU to ensure the triggering of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol by the European Commission was an isolated incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7294/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

375. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has engaged with his counterpart in the United Kingdom following the triggering of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7295/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 373 to 375, inclusive, together.

The decision by the European Commission to consider invoking Article 16 of the Protocol on 29 January was a mistake and should not have happened.

As soon as the Government became aware of it, we raised our concerns with the Commission and we welcome the fact that they immediately reversed course.

While this quick corrective action from the Commission was welcome - by failing to properly engage and consult with all relevant parties, some political damage was caused. We are engaging with the Commission to ensure this cannot be repeated.

I am in regular contact with Commission Vice President and EU co-chair of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, Maroš Šefcovic, as well as with both the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and UK co-chair of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, Michael Gove, and the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis.

The political impact of the Article 16 decision in Northern Ireland is deeply regrettable, and it is vital for all of us to do what we can to rebuild confidence.

The Protocol must work, and be seen to work, for Northern Ireland’s people and businesses. We recognise that there are a number of challenges in adapting to the Protocol – and we must work within its framework to find solutions.

The same messages are being conveyed in our contacts with fellow EU Member States, through direct Ministerial communications and through our diplomatic network, and solidarity on Brexit issues across the EU remains strong.