2017 has been as busy as ever for the Irish Government, for our Embassy team and for me as Ambassador as we continue our work in dealing with the implication of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Yesterday, I appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at the House of Commons. My opening remarks addressed many issues of importance to us as we seek to minimise the impact of Brexit on Ireland’s interests and on our close relationship with our nearest neighbour.
Our Government’s focus with regard to Brexit will be on minimising its adverse impact on trade and the economy, protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process, maintaining the Common Travel Area and influencing the future of the European Union. We will soon enter into a period of negotiations about the UK’s future relations with the EU. The outcome of these negotiations is, of course, uncertain, but at the Embassy we will be working to avoid any negative consequences for the Irish community here.
The greater clarity provided by the UK Government in recent weeks on their plans for exiting the EU has been welcomed by our Government. Prime Minister May’s speech and the White Paper have given appropriate prominence of the UK-Ireland relationship. This focus on Ireland/UK relations reflects the strong ties between our two countries, demonstrated when An Taoiseach Enda Kenny met Prime Minister May last week in Dublin.
The Prime Minister’s unambiguous commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland will I am sure be welcomed by our community here as it implies continued recognition of the unique status of the Irish in Britain. The Taoiseach has made clear his view that any manifestation of a hard border in Ireland would have very negative consequences.
The Irish Government’s programme of consultation, analysis and engagement with all who have a stake in this issue including the Irish in Britain is well underway. In recent months we have had a steady flow of visits from Irish Ministers meeting their UK counterparts and connecting with our community organisations here.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister Charlie Flanagan, Minister Leo Varadkar, Minister Simon Harris, Minister Joe McHugh and Minister Eoghan Murphy have all been to Britain in recent months to engage with their UK ministerial colleagues. In these meetings, the status of the Irish community in Britain has been an important topic.
Our Government is undertaking a huge diplomatic effort with our EU partners to ensure that our unique concerns are well understood right across Europe. Minister Flanagan has had over 80 Brexit engagements with his counterparts. The Government hosted the All-Island Civic Dialogue in Dublin in November and there have been various follow-up meetings. A second plenary session of this Civic Dialogue will take place next week.
At the Embassy, we will continue to maintain close contact with the Irish community all over this country and I am open to hearing from you about any concerns that may arise in the period ahead. You can find our contact information here:
If you are free that evening, you might like to come along to an event at which I am speaking on ‘Brexit and the Irish Community Q&A’. This will take place at the London Irish Centre on 16 February. You can register here:
The Irish Government is also providing regular Brexit updates and you can receive these directly to your email mailbox by completing the following sign-up form: http://eepurl.com/cxVh-v
Le meas agus gach dea ghuí,