25 Feabh 2022, 12.06
As Covid restrictions ease, Westminster Hall in London will on 28 February host the first face-to-face plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly since the onset of the pandemic.
Addressing the Assembly will be James Cleverly and Thomas Byrne, respectively the Europe Ministers of the UK and Ireland Governments, and UK Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer.
2022 will be another key year for UK-Ireland relations with both looking to accelerate their post-Covid economic recoveries and with EU-UK negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol still ongoing.
Also addressing the Assembly will be UK Northern Ireland Office Minister Conor Burns, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and John Finucane MP, speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin.
Speaking ahead of the plenary, Irish Co-Chair Brendan Smith TD commented, “The Irish members of BIPA welcome the opportunity to meet with our parliamentary colleagues for discussion and debate. This is the first in-person meeting in almost two years and is a timely opportunity to discuss matters of mutual concern and interest and to strengthen bilateral links.”
“The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the Northern Ireland Protocol have presented challenges for all our jurisdictions. In addition, Russia’s assault on Ukraine creates new threats to the rules based international order. As we emerge from the pandemic in the post-Brexit landscape, and face new challenges, we look forward to intensifying parliamentary engagement between the UK and Ireland.”
British Co-Chair Andrew Rosindell said “Finally, we are able to meet again face-to-face with colleagues from across Britain, the Crown Dependencies and Ireland. More than two years apart have done nothing to dampen our enthusiasm to deepen our bonds of friendship and have frank and fair discussions of each other’s views.”
“The roll-out of Covid vaccines across our islands has done much to create the conditions in which we are again able to meet as an Assembly, and I am pleased that the Assembly will be receiving a committee report on how our jurisdictions have handled their vaccine programmes.
“Covid is in retreat, but the economic recovery from Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine pose new challenges and give us renewed focus.”
Established in 1990 and expanded in 2001 to include Members of the Senedd (then the Welsh Assembly), the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, BIPA provides a forum for discussion of issues affecting relations and a means to improve mutual understanding. The body usually meets twice a year, alternating venues between the UK and Ireland.
BIPA Committees also conduct regular research and at plenary sessions publish reports on areas of mutual interest. The Assembly’s European Affairs Committee is due to report on each country’s respective vaccine rollout programmes.
Expected Speaker Timings
09.35 am: Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, Minister for Europe and North America, UK Government.
09.45am: Address by Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, UK Government
Followed by Q&A with both UK Ministers.
11.00 am: Address by Thomas Byrne TD, Minister of State for European Affairs, Government of Ireland.
11.50 am: Address by Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.
1.45 pm: Address by Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
2.10 pm: Address by John Finucane MP on behalf of Sinn Féin.
The sessions will be broadcast live on YouTube on Monday February 28th.
Watch the Morning Session from 9.30 am here.
Watch the Afternoon Session from 1.45 pm here.