'There is no doubt that Ireland’s interests are the EU’s interests'- Simon Coveney after meeting with Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney met with the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier on Tuesday afternoon in Luxembourg.
Mr Barnier gave Minister Coveney - who also has Special Responsibility for Brexit - a read-out of yesterday’s opening Brexit negotiations with the UK.
Minister Coveney in turn updated Mr Barnier on the latest developments in Northern Ireland, following his meetings with the parties in Stormont yesterday.
"In my first week in office, and one day after negotiations formally began with the UK, this was an important and timely opportunity to meet with Michel and his team," Minister Coveney said after the meeting.
"In this pivotal Brexit role, Michel has consistently demonstrated a keen understanding of Ireland’s particular and unique perspective. Most recently, this was articulated during his visit last month to Ireland, including to the border region.
“It is clear from our discussions today, as it was from comments at the joint press conference yesterday with David Davis, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, that Ireland remains a key EU priority in the Brexit negotiations.
“For the EU27’s part, we have set out our position plainly and in this position there is a strong acknowledgment of Ireland's unique concerns and priorities, including on: protecting both the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process; avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and; maintaining the Common Travel Area.
"In short, there is no doubt that Ireland’s interests are the EU’s interests".
The Minister said that yesterday’s exchange with the UK marks the beginning of a long process.
“From Ireland’s perspective, I emphasised to Michel that it is important in this first phase of the negotiations that sufficient progress is made on our issues, together with the issues of citizens' rights and the UK's financial liabilities," he said.
“We also agreed that once this sufficient progress is made, we should move as quickly as possible to begin discussions on the framework of the future relationship between the EU and the UK, including on trade.
“Ireland wants to see the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK - this will be critically important in minimising the impact of Brexit on our trade and on our economy.
“Finally, I underlined to Michel once again, Ireland’s willingness to continue constructive and regular engagement with his team at both political and official levels, as these complex negotiations progress.”
Minister Coveney also used the opportunity of today's attendance at the GAC to hold a number of bilateral meetings with his EU colleagues, including Ministers from Luxembourg, Estonia and the UK to discuss Ireland's Brexit priorities as well as other EU issues.