Tuesday, 6 February 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions
I will focus on the Taoiseach's address in the European Parliament and the meetings he attended in Strasbourg and will turn to the theme of Brexit, which dominated and underpinned both of those events. Downing Street has unfortunately restated its determination to leave the customs union and Single Market in the past 48 hours. Mr. Barnier stated yesterday that Britain will face unavoidable barriers to trade if that happens. The Taoiseach and I can agree that both of us want Britain and the North of Ireland to stay in the customs union and the Single Market. We both desire that and notwithstanding any backstop agreement that might be in place, that is the best outcome for Ireland. I appreciate there is a difficulty where there is a negotiation between Britain and all of the other member states while within Britain, the Tory Party is divided with different opinions held within it. It is very difficult to know who has the upper hand and what exactly is happening and what exactly the British Government wants at any given time.
Given those meetings, is the Taoiseach in a position to update the House on his assessment as to where Downing Street and the British Government stand on any trade deal that might emerge and on what are their intentions? It seems that those who advocate a hard Brexit are again gaining the upper hand and that is playing out in a potential leadership struggle within the Tory Party. We cannot become collateral damage in any of that. We cannot allow Ireland to become collateral damage in any of that. It is important that we have as much clarity as possible.
Can the Taoiseach update the House as to when he expects the distinct strand of discussions on the Irish issues to take place? We were promised trade talks between Britain and the European Union on the future trade agreement to be put in place but also parallel talks about how we put flesh on the bones of the joint report on Ireland that was agreed and when that will be put front and centre.