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Government statement on Brexit

The Government has noted the contents of Prime Minister May’s speech today and welcomes the fact that it provides greater clarity on the proposed approach of the British Government to the Brexit negotiation process.

Prime Minister May has made clear that she wishes to secure the closest possible future economic relationship for Britain with the EU, a goal that Ireland shares.

For Ireland, the priorities for the negotiation process that lies ahead are unchanged: our economic and trading arrangements, the Northern Ireland Peace Process including border issues, the common travel area, and the future of the European Union.

In her speech, Prime Minister May highlighted the specific and historic relationship between Britain and Ireland. In this context, she made clear that her priorities include maintaining the common travel area and avoiding a return to a hard border with Northern Ireland, both of which are welcome.

The alignment between our concerns regarding the economy and trade and the UK objective of a close, and friction-free, economic and trading relationship with the EU, including with Ireland is also very important.

The Government notes that the British approach is now firmly that of a country which will have left the EU but which seeks to negotiate a new, close relationship with it. While this will inevitably be seen by many as a “hard exit”, the analysis across Government has covered all possible models for the future UK relationship with the EU.

The Government’s preparation is extensive. Important organisational changes have been implemented in Government Departments and Agencies, with additional resources provided in key areas. Preparation to date includes the contingency work done before the UK referendum, intensified analysis and scenario planning carried out across all key sectors since, and extensive stakeholder consultation and engagement including through the all-island Civic Dialogue process.

The Civic Dialogue began with a plenary session on 2 November. The next plenary session will take place on 17 February. Between these two plenary meetings, 12 sectoral events examining specific policy areas in greater detail will also have taken place. The work of Civic Dialogue process to date has reaffirmed the priority issues identified by the Government.

An extensive programme of engagement with all other EU Governments and the EU institutions, including the Commission’s Brexit Negotiations Task Force, is under way. This engagement is being intensified in 2017.

The Taoiseach and Ministers will continue to meet and engage with their EU counterparts over coming weeks to emphasise Ireland’s concerns and to ensure that they are fully reflected in the EU position once negotiations commence. This activity is reinforced by extensive engagement at diplomatic and official level. The Government is acutely aware of the potential risks and challenges for the Irish economy and will remain fully engaged on this aspect as the negotiations proceed.

The Government is also very aware of the potential economic opportunities that may arise for Ireland, including in terms of mobile investment. Bids for the EU agencies currently located in London – the European Medicines Board and the European Banking Authority have already been announced and the State enterprise agencies are actively pursuing opportunities for increased investment, business and job creation in Ireland.

The Government is under no illusion about the nature and scale of the Brexit challenge. But it is ready:

· The critical negotiation priorities have been identified.
· The programme of dialogue with stakeholders will continue.
· Vigilance and engagement on economic risks and challenges will be maintained.
· Economic opportunities for Ireland will be pursued vigorously.
· Engagement with other Member States and EU institutions will intensify.
· Ireland will negotiate from a position of strength, as one of the 27 Member States firmly in, and committed to, the European Union.
· And Ireland will participate fully in the discussions on the future direction of the European Union.