Brexit negotiations for Ireland about ‘maintaining peace and stability’

In a speech following talks with the UK’s David Frost this week, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier showed particular concern for Ireland for when the Brexit transition period has ended.

It is less than four months until the UK’s transition period will end and Barnier said yesterday (Wednesday, September 2) that, despite current challenges faced due to Covid-19, “the pandemic does not stop the Brexit clock from ticking”.

‘I will miss Phil Hogan’

Barnier said he feels “this sense of urgency is strong in Ireland and in Northern Ireland”.

“Without a doubt, Ireland is the member state most affected by Brexit,” Barnier said.

“And of course, for the island of Ireland, Brexit negotiations have not just been about trade and the economy.

But, more existentially, about maintaining peace and stability.

Barnier said he “will miss Phil Hogan”, on whom he could “always count to relay any Irish concerns to me very directly over the last four years”.

He went on to thank Hogan “for all the work he has done for Europe” and that he looks “forward to working with the future commissioner of Irish nationality in the final stretch of the negotiations with the UK”.

UK has not shown willingness to compromise on fisheries

One of the main issues in negotiations thus far has been to do with finding a compromise on fisheries – which Barnier says the UK has “not shown any willingness” to compromise on.

“Where the EU has shown openness to possible solutions, the UK has shunned our offers.

Yet the UK government’s position would lock out Ireland’s fishermen and women from waters they fished in long before Ireland or the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973.

“That is just not acceptable.

“We fully understand and respect that the UK will become an independent coastal state, outside the Common Fisheries Policy.

“But, we will not accept that the work and the livelihoods of these men and women be used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations.”

Withdrawal agreement means ‘a stable solution for goods traded’

Barnier said the Brexit withdrawal agreement means that there is a “stable solution for goods traded between Ireland and Northern Ireland, without a hard border on the island”.

“This is essential to protect the all-island economy.”

Barnier feels that the EU needs to be sure that the Union Customs Code (which defines the legal framework for customs rules and procedures in the EU customs territory) will be applied in its entirety for goods arriving in Northern Ireland and, similarly, that goods leaving Northern Ireland respect all applicable EU export procedures and formalities.

In regards to the rights of citizens, Barnier added that the “full and effective” implementation of the withdrawal agreement is “the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions”.

‘Irish businesses will have to play part in adapting’

Barnier added that “Irish businesses, transport operators, ports and shipping companies will all have to play their part in adapting to the new situation”.

“Ireland’s unique geographical situation means that it will be particularly affected.

“Many Irish importers and exporters rely on the UK as a key route to and from the rest of the EU; their ‘land-bridge’ to and from the EU.”

Barnier signed off his address: “Go raibh míle maith agaibh.”