Key European Brexit negotiators confirm Ireland’s unique Brexit concerns
Europe’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has revealed he is working closely with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to find concrete solutions to Brexit.
And in addition, Manfred Weber MEP, the Chair of the European People’s Party (EPP), has also confirmed he is fully aware of Ireland’s unique concerns and priorities, following extensive engagement with Irish MEPs and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD.
The European leaders were speaking exclusively to FineGael.ie in the European Parliament (EP) just a month before the UK triggers its exit from the European Union.
The European Commission’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said he is completely “aware of Irish concerns”.
“I am working seriously with the Irish Government, with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and I have met several times with the Irish MEPs. I am working seriously to find concrete solutions,” Mr Barnier said.
Also speaking to FineGael.ie, Manfred Weber, who leads the largest political sphere of influence – the EPP – said they are aware of Government concerns.
“Taoiseach Enda Kenny has made very clear statements about the specific Irish interests, e.g. trade and the Northern Ireland border region. That sends a very strong signal,” he said.
First Vice-President of the EP and MEP for Midlands-North West, Mairead McGuinness, noted that what Mr Barnier said really must be heeded.
“He has reassured us that the Irish concerns are on his agenda.
“First of all that he understands our country but more importantly he understands the issues and how badly Ireland would be impacted by a hard Brexit,” Ms McGuinness said.
“It’s clear he is putting Ireland high on the agenda and that Irish issues are European issues—that’s vital, because it’s only by making them European, that we will get them negotiated effectively once Article 50 is triggered.
I’m confident that, at this point in the process, Ireland’s concerns are on the table,” Ms McGuinness said.
Fine Gael’s main priorities in the context of Brexit remain unchanged.
They are: protecting the close economic ties Ireland has with the UK, no return to a hard border, upholding the Good Friday Agreement, and retaining the Common Travel Area.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan discussed Brexit with foreign EU ministerial colleagues last week.
“I have been engaged in a diplomatic initiative for some eight months to ensure that Ireland’s unique concerns about Brexit are well understood in advance of the Article 50 exit negotiations.
“I am encouraged that both EU Commission Lead Negotiator Michel Barnier and EU Parliament Brexit Representative Guy Verhofstadt are on record as recognising and understanding these concerns and we have had some useful exchanges,” Mr Flanagan said.
Fine Gael Senator and Seanad spokesman on EU Affairs, Neale Richmond also met with Mr Barnier in Brussels last week.
“Mr Barnier informed members of the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee that he intended to visit Dublin again to discuss the upcoming Brexit negotiations. He also stated that he was open to addressing the Seanad.
“So far, the Seanad has been addressed on this matter by one foreign dignitary, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. I believe we should extend this honour to another highly important individual, Michel Barnier,” Senator Richmond said.