Written answers

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Department of An Taoiseach

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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121. To ask the Taoiseach if he has had recent contact with the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and other members of the European Council. [51767/17]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I met with President Tusk in Dublin on Friday 1 December, when we discussed progress on the Brexit negotiations. I reiterated the need to ensure sufficient progress on the Irish-specific issues - maintaining the Common Travel Area, protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process, and avoiding a hard border - before moving to phase two of the negotiations. I noted that shared membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union has been key to facilitating the invisible border and that, as the UK says it intends to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, we need firm commitments from them that a hard border will be avoided, recognising the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland.

As was made clear in his public remarks after the meeting, President Tusk was unequivocal in his support for Ireland and the need to ensure that there will be no hard border on the island. I took the opportunity at the meeting to thank President Tusk sincerely for his strong and unwavering solidarity since the very beginning of the process. I also outlined my support for his work in progressing the debate on the Future of Europe under the Leaders' Agenda.

I have spoken with both President Tusk and President Juncker by phone on a number of occasions over the past week. I met informally with my EU counterparts in the margins of the Social Summit in Gothenburg in November, and the European Council in Brussels in October. Separately I met with the leaders of the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in advance of the October meeting. I also had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister May in Gothenburg in November, further to earlier such meetings in September and June.

Ongoing political engagement with our EU and international partners remains crucial, especially as negotiations on Brexit proceed. I will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to advance Ireland's interests with my fellow members of the European Council. With this in mind I am due to meet Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands, On Wednesday 6th December in Government Buildings.

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