Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Department of An Taoiseach
Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.
I was pleased to welcome the Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, to Government Buildings on Thursday 21 June, where we had a very constructive and friendly meeting.
This was President Juncker’s first visit to Dublin in his current role. He was accompanied by Commissioner Hogan and Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator.
At our meeting we discussed the state of play in the Brexit negotiations in advance of the June European Council.
Mr. Barnier reiterated his assessment that serious divergences remain between the EU and the UK on how to resolve the border issue.
As the EU side has made clear, the Withdrawal Agreement must contain a fully operational backstop so there can be no hard border on this island in the future, whatever circumstances prevail.
For there to be a Withdrawal Agreement – and a period of transition – there has to be full agreement on all issues.
As we both made clear, there is now an urgent need to intensify efforts if we are to conclude a Withdrawal Agreement and have it operational by the time the UK leaves the EU next March.
I, of course, took the opportunity to convey my sincere appreciation to both President Juncker and Michel Barnier for their unwavering support and solidarity throughout the negotiations - as the President reiterated when he spoke in this Chamber. It is clear that EU partners remain absolutely steadfast in their support around the Irish issues.
We also discussed a number of other important EU issues ahead of the June European Council, including migration.
While noting Ireland was less directly affected than other Member States, I made clear our wish to play our part in developing a comprehensive EU approach, based on ensuring strong external borders; solidarity between Member States; and working in partnership with countries of origin, including in Africa, to underpin political and economic development, so that people can enjoy better lives and opportunities in their home countries.