Thursday, 13 December 2018
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue because we will be returning to it repeatedly in the coming weeks and months. First, a European Council meeting is taking place today and tomorrow in which there will be a genuine effort by EU leaders and institutions to respond to the request of the British Prime Minister for more reassurance and clarity regarding the backstop, which has been the focus of so much political attention in Westminster in recent days. However, that cannot happen in a way that undermines the purpose of the backstop or its implementation. Nobody has been asked by the British Prime Minister to change the wording of the withdrawal agreement and nobody is talking about that. What is being considered seriously now is how a political declaration can be put together that is real and provides reassurance for the many in Westminster who need it that the backstop represents no threat to them or the United Kingdom and instead is about providing reassurance on the island of Ireland, consistent with the obligations of the British and Irish Governments in the context of protecting the Good Friday Agreement, that under no circumstances in the future will border infrastructure re-emerge between the two jurisdictions on this island as a result of Brexit.
With regard to contingency, the Deputy knows there has been and continues to be a huge amount of work in preparation for all contingencies. To give an example of some the work we are doing with the European Commission there have been sectoral seminars since 15 November in which all 27 countries are working together with the European Commission. The seminar on 15 November was on financial services and on 27 November it was on citizens and social security co-ordination. Also on 27 November it was on professional qualifications, intellectual property, company law and consumer protection. On 29 November it was on air transportation along with other modes of transport such as road, rail and maritime issues. On 4 December there was a meeting on Irish specific issues with the Commission. On 6 December there was a focus on sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, requirements, tariff rate quotas, customs and import and export licensing. On 12 December the focus was on industrial goods including pharmaceuticals and chemicals. On 20 December there will be a sectoral seminar on policing, judicial co-operation and other security matters. On 10 January next it will be on fisheries, climate, environment and energy.
Let me reassure the public-----