Murphy predicts June date for EU-UK talks as he rejects criticism
The formal Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and European Union will begin in June, European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy has said.
He dismissed criticisms that Ireland failed to secure its interests in Europe after Spain secured an effective veto over the future of Gibraltar after Brexit.
Ireland would not be seeking any changes to the EU's draft negotiating guidelines due to be signed off by EU leaders at a special summit in Brussels on April 29, he said.
"These negotiating directives will provide the mandate for the Commission's team, and then they will formally organise the specific negotiations with the United Kingdom, which we believe will formally take place at the beginning of June."
Officials believe the substantive talks on the future arrangements may not actually begin until the autumn at the earliest, however, given the initial complex task of deciding how much Britain owes to the EU, and other issues such as the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens living in Ireland.
However, the issue of the Border and Northern Ireland could be dealt with early on.
Mr Murphy said the Government can be "quite happy" with the political and diplomatic campaign which he said had led to recognition across the EU of Ireland's unique circumstances.
But he warned it would be a long process. "The fact that we've made a good start should serve to encourage us, but that does not mean that we don't have a significant body of work to continue," he told the Oireachtas EU affairs committee.
Mr Murphy dismissed criticisms that Ireland failed to secure Ireland's interests in Europe after Spain was given an effective veto over the future of Gibraltar after Brexit.
He said the Spanish/Gibraltar issue will be dealt with in the second strand of the negotiations dealing with the future arrangement.
Every EU member state has the opportunity to block that part of the deal when finalised, Mr Murphy said.
"It is within the confines only of the new arrangement that the issue of Spain and Gibraltar will pertain, one could make the case that they already will have a veto in any event," he said.
"But these will not be discussed in round one, which is where the qualified majority voting element will come into place.
"So the issues about Spain and Gibraltar are completely different from the issues surrounding the island of Ireland, the Common Travel Area and the peace process."
Mr Murphy also said Ireland was not looking for any changes in the language of the negotiating guidelines, but reiterated Taoiseach Enda Kenny's comments that there may be a further explanation of Ireland's case in an annex to the document.