If Ireland's neutrality status or corporate tax rate was discussed in any of the meetings he has attended at EU level to discuss and agree the Brexit negotiation guidelines
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland's neutrality status or corporate tax rate was discussed in any of the meetings he has attended at EU level to discuss and agree the Brexit negotiation guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For PRIORITY answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25701/17 Lottery: 3
Over the course of the past eleven months since the referendum in the UK, I – along with my Government colleagues – have been engaged in an extensive programme of engagement with our EU partners on Brexit. There have been over 400 such engagements with the 27 EU Member States and the EU Institutions, which has included most recently the visit of the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to Ireland. This programme of engagement has been led by the Taoiseach, as well as my colleagues from across Government, complemented by official level meetings. For my part, I have had nearly 100 engagements with my EU counterparts and with the EU institutions.
A central goal of this engagement has been to ensure Ireland’s unique concerns in relation to Brexit are understood by our EU partners and to seek explicit recognition of these issues and priorities in the EU’s position for the withdrawal negotiations.
Throughout my engagement with partners I have laid particular emphasis on the political imperative of achieving flexible and imaginative solutions in relation to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, in particular with a view to avoiding a hard border. In so doing, I have been equally clear that we will only pursue solutions that are compatible with our aim of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.
This extensive political, diplomatic and official campaign has been effective. This was reflected most recently in the clear statement of support given by Michel Barnier when he said during his address to Joint Houses of the Oireachtas that Ireland’s interests in the upcoming negotiations will be the EU’s interests. Even more importantly, this has been demonstrated in practice through the strong acknowledgement of Ireland’s issues in the European Council Guidelines, the detailed negotiating Directives and the European Parliament’s resolution on Brexit.
The EU Guidelines adopted by the Taoiseach and his counterparts on 29 April fully take account of the Government’s priority of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including the need for flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland as well as recognising bilateral agreements and arrangements between Ireland and the UK, including the Common Travel Area.
The EU’s negotiating directives, which were agreed by the General Affairs Council on 22 May are fully in line with the EU Guidelines and additionally reflect the need to take full account of the situation of Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland who will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens. They also recognise the need to address issues arising from Ireland’s unique geographic situation, including the transit of goods to and from Ireland via the UK.
Neither Ireland’s neutrality status nor our corporation tax have been raised in any of my engagements with EU partners, or those of my officials, in relation to the EU’s Negotiating Guidelines and Directives. These are matters which have no bearing on the forthcoming negotiations between the EU and the UK.
Moreover, I have been struck by the very genuine level of engagement and understanding demonstrated by our EU partners with regard to the significant political challenges that Brexit poses to Ireland and in particular the peace process. Finding solutions will be a difficult exercise, but my engagement with EU partners has left me fully confident that we can count on their support as we seek the right outcome for Ireland at the end of what will be complex negotiations.