Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
UK Referendum on EU Membership
Firstly let me say that this Government is committed to minimising any adverse impacts on our economy and on the free movement of people, goods and services on these islands as a result of the UK's EU referendum.
Clearly the result of the referendum in the UK was not the one that we had hoped for, but we will now work with both our UK and our EU partners to ensure that the outcome of the 'Brexit' process is one that best serves our wider interests - in terms of our place in the EU, our relationship with the UK as a whole, and on an all-island basis, including of course in the context of the continuing consolidation of the peace process.
Issues of particular relevance to my Department are the Common Travel Area; police and judicial cooperation; north-south security cooperation; and data sharing and judicial cooperation on civil matters.
The Common Travel Area has been in existence since Irish independence. It is an important feature of the close relationship between Ireland and the UK with long-established benefits for trade and tourism between our two countries. Both Governments have publicly declared their commitment to ensuring no return to a so-called 'hard border' on the island of Ireland. There are excellent relations at official and political level in relation to enhancing the operation of the Common Travel Area and we are committed to that continuing. Retaining the Common Travel Area will be a key issue for Ireland in the context of negotiating new terms and conditions for the EU’s relationship with the UK. We will prioritise this matter in the context of a new relationship between the EU and the UK, and in bilateral discussions with the British Government.
The eventual departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union does mean that the only land border between the European Union and the United Kingdom will be on the island of Ireland. But just as is the case right now, the Irish border will be geographically isolated from the rest of the European Union and in particular it will be outside the Schengen area so the integrity of the border controls of the Schengen area will not be affected in any way by the UK's exit. There is therefore a strong case to be made for the continuity of current arrangements in relation to the border, in particular an absence of border controls or other restrictions on the free movement of people.
On the police and security co-operationfront it is important to emphasise that we do not envisage any diminution in security and police co-operation between Ireland and the UK.
Let me assure the House that substantial work has been undertaken across Government to identify the key strategic, policy and operational risks. This will continue to be prioritised in my Department and across all Government Departments and agencies. Our primary objective remains to protect and advance this country's best interests.
As I stated earlier, I cannot pretend to the House that 'Brexit' will not pose complex challenges but we are committed to doing all we can to reduce any potential adverse effects for all the people on the island, including of course those who reside in the border counties.