Fine Gael Senator and Government spokesman on EU Affairs, Neale Richmond, has welcomed today’s (Friday) issuing of draft negotiating guidelines, which have been circulated to Member States by the European Council President Donald Tusk. This provides some clarity on contentious issues for Ireland, notably the ability of our citizens to travel, work and live freely in a post Brexit Britain.
“Over the past few months since the Brexit vote, all levels of the Irish Government has lobbied EU officials, negotiators and colleagues to ensure that Brexit does not allow a return of a hard border on this island, or disrupt the lives of Irish citizens who want to continue to build lives in the UK.
“The draft negotiating guidelines issued today by President Tusk, coupled with Prime Minister May’s letter triggering Article 50 containing direct language on our future relationship, is a sign that the Irish Government has been heard loud and clear.
“President Tusk has said himself that imaginative solutions will be required to avoid a hard border. This is key for Ireland from an economic perspective as well as recognising the cultural and historic legacies we continue to deal with in a post-troubles era. A return of a physical border with checkpoints is not a workable solution.
“It is also positive to hear President Tusk state that the EU should recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland, such as our common travel agreement that predates our 1973 European accession.
“Ireland is the only country referred to in such detail in either letter. We must look to the positives ahead of the Special Summit of EU leaders in Brussels at the end of April, where the real work and detail of the EU’s common negotiating position will be agreed, and a mandate will be given to the European Commission’s negotiator, Michel Barnier.
“These commitments are as a result of the work and preparedness of the Irish Government in the lead up to the issuing of the letter invoking Article 50. The hard work begins now and we must come together to build on this in order to minimise the negative impact that Brexit ultimately will have. The negotiating guidelines give Ireland a fighting chance as we enter a very difficult two year period.”