Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
90. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken to put in place new formal structures for dialogue between Ireland and the UK as a result of the departure of the UK from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53465/19]
It is clear that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will change fundamentally the nature and frequency of our bilateral interaction. In this context, I am conscious of the importance of protecting existing Ireland-UK cooperation, and of providing opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and relationship-building in the future as the UK departs from the EU.
The overall relationship with the newly elected UK Government is a top priority for both myself and the Taoiseach. Given our joint stewardship of the peace process, our people-to-people relations, and our economic and trading relationship, it's clear that we will need to establish and maintain close, collaborative relationships with our UK counterparts now and for the coming years. We need to ensure that the “habit of cooperation” that has developed through so many years working side by side as members of the European Union is maintained following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Regular engagement, facilitated by existing structures like the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and the British-Irish Council, will be key in this regard. We will also discuss with the UK shortly whether new structures for cooperation between Dublin and London will also be required.
The Government has committed increased resources to our Embassy in London in the last few years, which was already the largest bilateral Embassy in our network. These resources have come from both from my own Department and from several other Government Departments, and will ensure the Embassy's optimal engagement across all relevant policy areas. It is envisaged that the Embassy will continue to expand in order to support the bilateral relationship and to promote and protect Irish interests across all relevant sectors in a post-Brexit context.
Beyond London, the continued development of our relationships with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales will be ever more important as the UK moves forward with EU withdrawal. In Scotland, the Consulate in Edinburgh is active in promoting and protecting Irish interests, including taking a leading role on the current bilateral review of Ireland-Scotland relations. In addition, our footprint has also been re-established in Wales where the Consulate in Cardiff re-opened in April of this year, with a political and economic focus.
The relationship between Ireland and the UK is, and will continue to be, a unique, vital and complex one. It is a relationship which requires great care, close attention and on-going engagement at every level right across the UK and its devolved administrations.