Speaking from the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Malta Minister Flanagan said:
“I am pleased that the the intensive engagement by the Government with our EU partners has resulted in Ireland’s concerns being reflected prominently in the EU’s position for the upcoming Brexit negotiations as adopted by the European Council today. I appreciate the solidarity and understanding demonstrated by our partners on the Irish specific issues and priorities and look forward to continued close cooperation on these, as well as the broader objectives of the Union as a whole, as these crucial negotiations with the UK begin.
I warmly welcome the very strong acknowledgement in the Guidelines adopted today by the European Council of the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. The explicit recognition by the Council of the importance of preserving the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts reflects the consistent support of the European Union for the peace process.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, it is explicitly accepted that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that decisions about its constitutional status are a matter for the people of Northern Ireland. A united Ireland could only be brought about by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions on the island.
The statement agreed by the European Council today simply acknowledges this reality and confirms that,in the event of a united Ireland, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would legally be part of the European Union. The Government sought this acknowledgment, which is a statement of legal fact, to provide reassurance that the integrity of this important aspect of the Agreement is secure, regardless of the status of the UK within the EU.
Today’s European Council marks an important moment at the start of what will be a long process. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I together with my colleagues in Government will be working tirelessly within the EU for the best interests of all of the people of the island of Ireland. I hope that by the end of June there will again be a power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland which can directly engage in the UK wide processes relating to Brexit and work in partnership with Dublin through the North South Ministerial Council. “