Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
114. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he expects the European Commission to take legal action against the UK over its internal market Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28479/20]
143. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the plans that have been given consideration to ensure no infrastructure or checks are placed along the Border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28476/20]
144. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the representations he has made to foreign governments to build pressure on the Government of the United Kingdom to fulfil its commitments to the Brexit withdrawal agreement and to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement. [25600/20]
145. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent and upcoming political engagements he has had internationally on the Brexit withdrawal agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28477/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 114 and 143 to 145, inclusive, together.
It is vital that the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland be implemented in full and in good faith.
The publication and passage through the House of Commons of the UK Internal Market Bill in September caused grave concern. The Bill, in its current form, undermines the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol. Any unilateral departure from the terms of the Agreement is not acceptable and seriously damages trust in Northern Ireland, and between the EU and the UK. The suggestions that the UK’s unilateral approach is designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement were of particular concern. The Protocol itself is specifically designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The Taoiseach raised our concerns directly with the British Prime Minister on the day the Bill was published. He and I have discussed these issues with a range of interlocutors including Commission President von der Leyen, Commission Vice President Šefcovic and the EU's chief negotiator, Mr Michel Barnier. The Government has remained in close contact with our EU partners on this issue over recent weeks.
The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement met on Thursday 10 September and Monday 28 September. The Joint Committee, and Specialised Committee, are the appropriate channels for considering issues around the implementation of the Protocol. However, they cannot be used to renegotiate the Protocol.
At these meetings, Ireland set out clearly our concerns. Commission Vice President Šefcovic urged the British Government to remove the problematic measures from the Bill by the end of September. Ireland, together with the EU, also sent a clear message, on the need for the UK to restore trust and to accelerate its work to implement the Protocol in all its aspects.
On 1 October the Commission sent the UK a letter of notice for breaching obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. We continue to urge the British Government to work to repair the severely damaged trust between the EU and UK.
As Deputies will be aware, I have also discussed this issue with Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney during his visit to Dublin. I also visited Washington DC last week, and discussed the issues with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Richard Neal. Each reaffirmed their unwavering support for the Good Friday Agreement.
Throughout the Brexit process, I have maintained close contacts with leaders in Northern Ireland. I welcome that the EU and UK are engaging closely on relevant implementation issues to find appropriate and agreed solutions, which should fall within the framework of the agreed Protocol.
Despite noise and setbacks, this Government’s focus remains on implementation - in full and in good faith - of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol, and on achieving a successful conclusion to the future relationship negotiations.