Michel Barnier Briefings

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Michel Barnier

Recorded coverage of the speech by the European Union's lead negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, to the Irish Parliament, from Thursday 11 May.

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We wish to welcome the members of both houses and Mr Michel Barnier to


this sitting and joint committee. Members will know he is the chief


negotiator of the task force for negotiations with the United


Kingdom. I accordingly invite him to take his seat in the chamber.


The decision, Monsieur Barnier, by the UK last year to withdraw from


the European Union will have a profound impact on Europe and on its


citizens. It it also raises a number of specific and important issues


that are unique to Ireland. For instance, concerns have been raised


about its impact on Northern Ireland and the peace process as well as its


impact on the Common travel area between Ireland and the United


Kingdom. Since the formal notification on the 29th of March


2017 of the UK's intention to withdraw, preparations for the start


of the negotiations have intensified. As members will be


aware, the European Council agreed guidelines for the first phase of


negotiations on the 29th of April of this year and last week, the


European Commission published its draft negotiating directives. Our


exchange of views today is therefore timely and we hope it would


contribute positively to the preparations for the negotiations.


Let me also say that I firmly believe that they's sitting


demonstrates how national parliaments can contribute


effectively to public debate on matters of concern to the union,


which is of course one of the principal objectives of article 12


of the treaty. Monsieur Barnier, we are conscious of the challenging


road ahead. We wish you and your task force well in your important


work, and it is our sincere hope that an agreement can be reached


which protects the principles of the union and the interests of the


member states asked maintaining a strong relationship with the United


Kingdom. With those few thoughts, may I invite you now to address our


sitting. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for


your kind words and congratulations on your perfect French.


The speakers, I am very happy and honoured to address both houses and


to greet you as the representatives of the people of Ireland in all your


political diversity. I take this on as a responsibility, the


responsibility to listen to all those who will be affected by the


decision of the UK to leave the European Union. The responsibility


to listen to your concerns, build our positions together, negotiate in


our common interests and the responsibility to explain that we


need each other, the Ireland is stronger in the union and the EU is


stronger with Ireland. Your country has honour honour deep historical,


cultural and intellectual ties to continental Europe for many


centuries. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Irish colleges were


set up around Europe, from Madrid, where I was yesterday, to Paris,


Rome and Prague. They contributed to writing the history of Ireland and


the history of Europe. And they spread Irish culture to the


continent. Centuries later in 1972, the people of Ireland massively


voted to take part in the European project. At that time, I was 21,


last century. France had a referendum on the accession of


Irish, the UK, Denmark and Norway. It was my very first vote. I


campaign for a yes vote for the UK's AC session back then, voting yes was


not so easy for a member of the French Gaullist party. But I did it


with my full heart, and I never regretted it. I regret that Brexit


is happening now. I would have liked to have seen the UK staying in


Europe with Irish and all the 26 other member states. But we are


where we are. Since 1972, we have accomplished great things together.


The European Union has helped Ireland become what it is today. And


Irish has a than strengthened our union. The Irish people are known as


hard-working and open-minded. Their membership has a chance to modernise


their economy and society. We see this now in innovative companies and


in the creation of new jobs. Investors seek Irish as being


central in the European market, not peripheral. And we see it across


Irish cities, towns and villages. They have been enriched by fellow


Europeans who have come here to work, study, travel and live. Seamus


Heaney said to mark the enlargement of the EU in 2004 "Oh on a day when


newcomers appear, let it be welcoming and let us speak, move


lips, move minds and make new meanings flyer". Irish has welcomed,


like you welcomed 30 years earlier. Ladies and gentlemen, 444 years,


Irish people have shaped Europe. They have helped turn Europe into a


more open and innovative continent. Ireland's first European Commission,


Patrick Hillary, played a major role in improving inequality between


women and men before serving as your president. Another Irish


Commissioner, Peter Sutherland, supported the creation of the single


market and establish the Erasmus programme, bringing young Europeans


closer together for 30 years now and showing what free movement of people


really means. Today, Phil organ is in charge of developing the European


Union's most complete economic policy, the Common Agricultural


Policy. And for my part, I am proud to have been minister of the farmers


and fishermen in my own country. Some in large countries with


imperial pasts, like my own, seem to think that the EU makes them


smaller. This is simply not true. In smaller countries, people are often


more aware that being part of the EU increases influence and


opportunities. And being part of a common project does not prevent a


country from keeping its own identity and making a name for


itself in the world, as Enda Kenny reminded us all in his excellent St


Patrick's Day speech in Washington. Pooling national sovereignty


increases our European sovereignty, because EU citizens of all countries


can study, work, settle down in another member state and be treated


like nationals. European consumers can access high-quality food and


agricultural products from across the EU because they all meet strict


standards. Suppliers do not have to worry about border checks. Because


they are part of the call without roaming charges as if they are


calling from home. Airlines, whatever member state they come


from, can offer direct flights between any two EU airports. They


can rely on our open skies agreement with the US, the EU has made travel


easier. And Irish airlines have been among the first to take advantage of


these benefits and have profoundly change the market. I experienced it


first hand myself when I flew to Dublin yesterday night on a rather


well-known low-cost carrier. Still no coffee, but a little bit more


seat space than before. Little bit. Honourable members, being together


makes us all stronger. Because we are part of the EU, businesses can


trade goods without customs duties and documentation requirements are


very simple. As part of the EU single market, companies and rely on


fairer competition and a level playing field. Because the EU has


consistently put in place high levels of environmental protection,


citizens enjoy cleaner air and water and governments can resist a race to


the bottom and fight climate change more effectively together. EU


companies have privileged access to 60 foreign markets, such as South


Korea, Vietnam and recently Canada. Thanks to the free trade agreements


negotiated at the EU level. Banks, insurance and investment funds can


provide services in the whole single market, based on their establishment


here in Dublin, thanks to the so-called passporting writes.


Because they are part of the EU, judges can rely on the European


arrest warrant. It ensures the rapid treatment of requests for


surrendering suspected criminals from another member state to bring


them to justice. Because they are part of the EU, universities receive


funding for research and innovation. They form one of the widest academic


networks in the world. As a union member, this is what we enjoy. And


it is what a member state loses when it leaves the EU. This is what we


enjoy and it is what a member state loses Barnier when it leaves the


union. Barnier But let me be clear. Brexit will come at a cost, also to


us, the 27. I am fully aware that some member states will be more


affected by others and as chief negotiator, my objective is to reach


a fair deal, a deal that defends the interests of the entire EU, but also


those of individual member states. Because of its historical and


geographical ties with the UK, because of your shared border and


strong economic links, Ireland is in the unique position. Brexit is


already having an impact on the value of Irish exports to the UK, in


particular the food sector. Many in Ireland fear the return of tensions


in the north. Today, in front of these two houses, I want to reassure


the Irish people that in this negotiation, Ireland's interests


will be the union interests. We are in this negotiation together and are


united EU will be here for you. Tomorrow, I will travel to the


border with Northern Ireland. I will meet farmers and workers in a dairy


cooperative. I want to learn from them and listen to the concerns


about how they are affected by Brexit. Some might be concerned


about exports to the UK, or by the return of custom checks at the


border. Others might fear a return to the instability of the past. In


Northern Ireland, lifting the borders took time. Only 15 years ago


did checkpoints and controls totally disappear. Thanks to the Good Friday


agreement that ended decades of violence I was the European


Commissioner in charge of the peace programme. I have not forgotten my


conversations with John Hume and David Trimble at that point. So I


understand the union's role in strengthening dialogue in Northern


Ireland and supporting the Good Friday agreement. European


integration helped remove borders that once existed in maps and in


minds. I will work with you to avoid a hard


border. The UK's departure from the EU will have consequences. We have a


duty to speak the truth. We have together the duty to speak the


truth. Some controls are part of the EU border management. They protect


the single market. They protect our food safety and our standards. But


as I already said so many times, nothing in the negotiation should


put peace at risk. Nothing. It was recognised by the 27 head of states


and governments two weeks ago. There were very clear that the Good Friday


Agreement must be respected in all its dimensions, all its dimensions.


The border issue will be one of my three priorities for the


negotiations, together with citizens' rights and the financial


settlement. We must first make sufficient progress on these points


before we start discussing the future of our relationship with the


UK. The sooner this will happen, the better. If the conditions are right,


a close partnership with the UK is in everybody's interests. And in


Ireland's interests, in particular. Currently Ireland exports 14% of


goods and 20% of its services to the UK a, this is twice the EU average,


twice. Of course such facts must be put


into perspective. Before Ireland's accession to the EU, Ireland


accounted for 50 of the trade. Today Ireland exports more to the other


countries than to the UK and the single market is a key asset for


your financial and pharmaceutical industry. Still, the specific issue


that you face deserves all our attention. Once again, Ireland


shares a land border with the UK and most of its trade to the EU goes


through the UK. This is why I've engaged with Dail, the Senate as


well as you will at members of the Irish EU Parliament immediately


after taking up my position. Ireland has done remarkable preparatory


work. Remarkable. We have to use our combined strength together. We are


working to deliver solutions. I want to listen to the concerns of the


Irish people but I also want to pass on the message of hope and


determination. For all the problems it creates, Brexit also rep minds us


of what the EU has builting together. What each of us enjoys as


new citizens and how we can further improve the European project. The EU


is not perfect. We know that and President Juncker put it candidly


this week. There are lessons to draw from the crisis. Not only in


Ireland. There are lessons to draw from Brexit, from the rising scores


of the populist parties in many countries, including mine. Let's not


confuse public opinion with populism. We should listen to


people's feeling and respond with policy change. This is how we will


fight populism. Just because, honourable member, I'm convinced


that Ireland will play a major role in these changes, as a centre for


innovation, as a strong and sustainable agri-food producer, as a


bridge across the Atlantic, as a supporter of the future relationship


that we need to build with the UK. Our objective is clear - we want, we


want these negotiations to succeed. I want us to reach a deal, the UK


has been a member of the EU for 44 years. It should remain a close


partner. But it will need to negotiate a bold, ambition but also


fair free trade agreement. We will also need the same ambition for our


research and innovation networks and for the fight against climate


change. We need the same ambition in foreign


policy, in international cooperation and development. 27 years ago,


Nelson Mandela spoke in this very room. Just a few months after he was


released from jail, he praised Ireland's leadership, within the


European community, to maintain strong pressure on the apartheid


system in South Africa. Tomorrow, our international partners should be


able to turn to the EU and to the UK and find in them, strong and united


shared European values. Finally we need to protect our internal and


external security. Whether it is the intelligence, the fight against


cyber threats or cyber security. If he with put things in the right


order, if we negotiate with mutual respect, without any kind of


agreesivity and if we are open to fight, there is no reason why a


strong Europe can maintain a strong relationship with the UK. Dear


speakers, honourable members, I have been myself a parliamentarian for


more than 17 years in the French Senate. I will listen carefully to


the views of the Taoiseach and of all party leaders. In these


negotiations and the public debate that now start, you have, as a


national Parliament, a role to play together with the European


Parliament and civil society. That is why I have been so honoured by


your invitation to address the two Houses of Parliament of Ireland.




Merci, Mr Barnier and thank you for the evaluation of that major


challenge that lies ahead I'm pleased to address the House today


in the presence of Michel Barnier. I thank you for the statement in which


he outlined the complexities of the Brexit negotiations and for his


acknowledgement of their response for Europe and of course for


Ireland. Michael Barnier is a long-standing friend of this


country, not just as a long-standing French politician and Commissioner


but as a European Commissioner. His time as Commissioner form regional


policy gave him a particular insight to the unique circumstances on the


island of Ireland which will be central to the talks ahead. I just


want to thank you sincerely for your willingness to engage with Ireland


since your apartment as head of the Commission Brexit task force last


July. This is your second visit to Dublin since that appointment, but


we've also met on other occasions, including on my own visits to


Brussels in February and March and of course at the European Council.


You and your colleagues at the Brexit task force have been more


than cooperative and accessible, to our ministers and senior officials


and I know you have also been open to a range of other important


stakeholders from Ireland. I thank you for this engagement. The


challenges for this country arising from Brexit are extremely serious


and it is essential that all those affected have the opportunity to


make their voices heard. This has also been the approach of the


Government here, along with ongoing sectoral analysis across Government


departments, we have engaged widely with industry and civic society,


holding almost 280 separate meetings. The all-Ireland civic


dialogue which I convened with the minister of foreign affairs and


Trade Minister, Flanagan, has concluded 1 sector events, two


mreenry meetings with over 1200 delegates representing industries


from organisationses from across the country. This kind of consultation


has informed our positions on the negotiations, has abled us to public


our thinking in the comprehensive Government document last week.


Events have moved on quickly since Prime Minister May formally notified


the European Union of the UK's invention to leave. The European


Council agreed the EU negotiating guidelines on 29th April. And on 3rd


May, the European Commission proposed its draft negotiating


directives, which built up the guidelines and provide more detail


on the issues to be addressed. The extensive preparation by Member


States, by the EU institutions, and by Mr Barnier's task force meant


that the guidelines were agreed very quickly. This was by no means a


given. We know just how complicated and serious the issues are. For


Europe as a whole and particularly for Ireland. So, for over two years,


the Government has been analysing the issues and engaging with sectors


across this island to identify our main areas of concern and to develop


our priorities. Some of these have been referred to here by Michel


Barnier. These are the protection of the Good Friday agreement and the


peace process, including by avoiding a hard border, to retain the common


travel area, to minimise the impact on our economy, and to work for a


positive future for the European Union. We've also been extremely


active at political and official level in engaging with our EU


partners and the EU institutions, with a view to highlighting and to


explaining the significant implications for Ireland, arising


from Brexit, and the need to take account of our particular concerns


in the negotiations ahead. Indeed, since the UK referendum last June,


we have had over 400 engagements on Brexit, with our EU partners. In all


of these meetings, we've explained the background and the context of


the Northern Ireland peace process, emphasised the need to avoid the


reimposition of a hard bored on the island of Ireland and as I've said


before, this is a political challenge, and we will have to be


both flexible and imaginative to deal with it But thanks to this


strategic impatient work, and the understanding and the support of our


European partners, I am pleased that Ireland's specific concerns, Mr


Barnier's mentioned this specifically, the unique


circumstances that apply here, are fully acknowledged in these


guidelines. And supporting and protecting ate chee.s, the benefits


and commitments of the peace process, avoiding a hard border,


protecting the common travel area will now be addressed as part of the


withdrawal negotiations. The guidelines provide an excellent


basis for the negotiations, and it was crucial that got this right from


the start and again, I would like to thank Mr Barnier for his role in


making that happen. In more general terms, we're pleased with the tone


of the guidelines, which is open and constructive, while nevertheless


clearly and firmly outlining the EU's objectives and principles. They


highlight the importance of getting clarity in relation to EU citizens'


rights, which is the key issue across Member States, and important


in terms of providing certainty for people and for families.


The approach to the question of the UK's financial liabilities is also


welcome. It is only reasonable that the UK is asked to honour the


commitments that it entered into as a member state of the European


Union. Mr Barnier's approach to this is sensible, to focus firstly on the


principles and methodology before considering the numbers or the


structure of payments that might be involved. Importantly from our


perspective, the guidelines acknowledge the need for


transitional arrangements. This will be crucial in order to provide a


level of continuity and certainty both for our citizens and from


businesses. As Ireland stands to be more effective than any other member


state by the departure of the UK, we believe it is necessary to begin


work as soon as possible, and I am glad you referred to this, on


scoping out the future EU- UK relationship. I am pleased therefore


that the guidelines acknowledge that the shape of the future relationship


can be considered once the European Council, that is the head of state


and government of the 27 member states, agrees that sufficient


progress has been made on the withdrawal issues. This phased


approach is also a sensible pragmatic way forward. From


Ireland's perspective, our objective is for a close and positive future


relationship with the UK, and we are pleased therefore that the


guidelines indicate that the EU wants an ambitious agreement, not


just in economic terms, but also in areas such as security. We will


continue to work with partners to achieve such an outcome. So I


welcome the European Council guidelines from a substantive


perspective. And also the principles that have been carried forward into


the negotiating directives. I appreciate the thorough preparatory


work carried out by Mr Barnier and his task force as well as other EU


partners, whose willingness to listen to us, to listen to our


story, to acknowledge our unique circumstances, has brought us to


this point. The outcome is an endorsement of the approach by


government and a clear recognition of the specific challenges we face.


The government has robustly defended the Good Friday agreement process


throughout these negotiations so far, making clear that as a legally


binding international treaty, it provides a unique political and


constitutional framework on the island of Ireland. We know it was


vital to provide reassurance that Brexit does not in any way undermine


the Good Friday or any provision of the Good Friday agreement. In that


context, we have secured an acknowledgement that in the event of


change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, brought about


in accordance with the principles the Good Friday agreement and the


principle of consent, the entire territory of such a united Ireland


would be part of the European Union. I have been consistent in my view


that now is not the time to have such a referendum on Irish unity and


that the conditions set out in the Good Friday agreement for the


calling of a border poll do not currently exist. However, the


statement agreed by the head of state government of the EU member


states which would be recorded in the minutes of the European Council


was hugely important in order to dispel any doubt that the UK exit


from the European Union would negatively impact on this crucial


constitutional provision of the Good Friday agreement. With the EU


guidelines now adopted, including the language about our unique


concerns, the government last week published a document which reflects


the findings of our extensive preparatory work on the island of


Ireland and at EU level and outlines the positions and priorities that


will underpin our engagement in the Brexit process over the next two


years. At EU level, the more detailed draft negotiating


directives are now being discussed at ministerial and official level


with a view to agreement of the General affairs Corran saw on the


22nd of May. These are again broadly positive from the Irish point of


view. Mr Barnier and his team have shown that in addition to being open


to meet with us, they are also listening to what we have to say,


which is why I welcome your decision today. This is important, if the


negotiations to proceed in a calm and the way and end up at a point


which is as good as possible for all sides. As I said in my stint on


Tuesday, it became clear at an early stage of our analysis that the


economic impacts of Brexit would be severe. With the EU guidelines now


adopted, the government will intensify its focus on the economic


indications of Brexit, including on domestic policy measures to protect


it from the potential negative impact of Brexit to reinforce the


competitiveness of the Irish economy which is so important and also to


pursue all opportunities that might arise. In this context, we should


also mention that I Ireland will bid for the two other EU bodies


currently located in London, the European medicines agency and the


European banking authority. I believe Ireland offers an excellent


opportunity as a location for these. In conclusion, Brexit is a British


policy. It is not an Irish policy and it is not an EU policy. For its


part, Ireland remains committed clearly to the European Union and


its future. Indeed, a poll published on Europe day this week showed that


88% of Irish people agree that Ireland should remain a member of


the European Union. Participation and our membership has transformed


our country over the last 40 years. So we are committed to playing a


strong and active role as a member of the EU 27. We are prepared. We


will continue to ensure that our concerns and priorities are


reflected in the European Union negotiating position as it evolves.


And as we work with our European partners and EU institutions towards


a strong and constructive future with our relationship with the


United Kingdom. Thank you very much. On behalf of the Fianna Fail party,


I thank you for taking the time to address this session in such an


effective and competitive manner. Your eagerness to listen and respond


to the concerns of Ireland continues an approach seem during the many


important roles you have held on the French government and the European


Commission. This is not an occasion where we can or should get into the


specifics of the negotiations. I am confident that your team and the


European institutions will continue to be accessible for constructive


discussions. Fianna Fail sees this exchange of views as an opportunity


to link our approach to these negotiations with the fundamental


issue of Ireland's place within Europe. This is not just about the


outcome of the Brexit process, but also about how we see the long term


future of relations on this island with our neighbour and with our


partners in the European Union. No one underestimates the scale and


complexity of the task which you face. Last year's referendum was an


ugly and negative affair. No amount of warm words and earnest statements


can cover this up. There was no study for implementing Brexit. There


was just a strategy for winning the vote through a combination of


bluster and aggression. It was not a positive assertion of sovereignty,


it was the culmination of 30 years of an increasingly corrosive


scapegoating of Europe and immigrants for the home-grown


divisions in British society. Those false prophets who promised an


economic bonanza are now claiming that they have defied the critics


and Britain is booming. This is nonsense. Public borrowing and taxes


have already risen since the vote, and the long term damage to


employment and standards of living is becoming ever more certain.


Fundamentally, the narrow Brexit majority represented a rejection of


strong rule-based cooperation between states. It asserted a narrow


vision of sovereignty which developed in the 19th century and


directly led to the two bloodiest wars in history. Let there be no


doubt about where Ireland stands. We want nothing to do with a backward


looking idea of sovereignty. We remain absolutely committed to the


ideals of the European Union. We see the union for what it is, the most


successful international organisation in world history. And


while the extremes of right and left try together to attack it, they have


no credible response to the fact that every member state has secured


a significant rise in living standards and a continent once


defined by conflict is today defined by cooperation. The union is flawed,


but its successes are undeniable. Certainly, there are different views


here. There are those who buy into the anti-EU narratives. But the


overwhelming majority of the Irish people are determined that Ireland's


future will remain a European future. It is important for you to


understand that Ireland's approach to Europe and to international


commitments is deeply intertwined with our national identity. Last


year, we marked 100 years since the most important founding event of our


Republic. The nationalism of the rising of 1916 and the population of


independence is a generous one. It defines the Irish nation is having


diverse elements, and six a state which works with others. Our


republican constitution, adopted in 1937 at a dark moment in world


affairs, goes even further and explicitly recognises the role of


international law and cooperation. We have no nostalgia for a lost


Empire and no wish to assert superiority over others. We have


never sought to stand apart from the world, jealously guarding the right


to say no to everything. We fully understand that only when states


work together can they secure peace, progress and prosperity for their


people. That is why we remain active and constructive members of the


European Union. The most basic challenge for the agreement which


you will negotiate is to protect the essential contract which underpins


the European Union. This contract is that all members must have the


opportunity to achieve progress. When new circumstances arise, new


responses must be possible. If Europe ceases to be a vehicle of


hope, then it ceases to have a purpose. Brexit represents a


dramatic disruption which poses permanent challenges which are


unevenly spread within the union. The referendum result in the British


government's decision to opt out of both the single market and the


customs union are deeply destructive to businesses and communities on


this island. The only long term option for us is to take a more


ambitious and urgent approach to that and innovation. Even more


importantly, we must now find a way of fixing the damage caused to the


agreed approach to building a lasting reconciliation in a place of


sectarian division. I remember well that when a government of ours


approached you concerning European Union support for the peace process,


you were active, engaged and generous. We have no doubt that you


will do everything possible to honour the clear support for the


Good Friday agreement contained in the negotiation guidelines.


It is important to emphasise that Good Friday Agreement has policies


and structures which were intended to evolve overtime. It is not the


intention of having either the status quo or be reunification. In


fact the spirit of the act is to allow for provisions for shared...


Over time in important practical matters. The text incorps rauted in


our constitution allows for this Parliament. - incorporated. Allows


for this Parliament to delegate to bodies not solely under our


direction. Tourism, trade and European funding programmes are


three of the areas already covered. Whatever is agreed in the


negotiations must do nothing to undermine the ability to allow


shared cross-border institutions and action to develop. In terms of the


wider trade arrangements, we believe that maintaining a close trading


relationship with the United Kingdom is in Europe's best interests. Given


the scale of disruption which Brexit will cause, even with its soft


border, we believe that a former special status should be considered


in the negotiations. -- a formal special status. There are many


models of special economic zones in the world which could be adapted.


The rights of persons born in Northern Ireland, or long-term


residents of Northern Ireland, to Irish and, therefore, European


citizenship, must be protected fully in the final agreement. We welcome


the reassurances provided on this, as well as the commitment to


maintain the common travel area. As you know, this commitment is


currently referenced in protocol 20 of the treaty on the functioning of


the European Union. This port of call is essentially meaninglesses


once the UK leaves the European Union because Ireland's rights are


defined in in terms of its relation was another contracting partner to


the treaty this. Raisings what maybe a fundmental practical negotiations


with the arrangement which is the status of the agreement which


emerges the guidelines limit what can be agreed to measures that


conform to existing European laws. It is frapgly, very difficult to see


how issues to do with Northern Ireland or indeed the common travel


area, as well as essential economic adjustments, can be addressed


without some new EU legal measures. We hope you will be willing to


recommend new legislative acts, where these maybe required. However,


where there is a doubt concerning the treaties, we believe the final


agreement should provide the means of adopting some new measures, such


as an enabling provision which would allow new North-South arrangements,


following council Eunan incompetent. -- unamimit areas. It should be


possible to adopt minor treaty provisions at the same time if they


are meeting basic objectives. This session does not allow for more


detail but we will forward to you specific proposals once the


negotiations are under way. On this very day, 45 years ago, the votes


were counted in our accession referendum. An overwhelming 83%


voted in favour of membership. The campaign saw many scare stories,


promoted about how Europe would reduce Ireland to a barren


wasteland, build nuclear plants on every cross roads and parade


missiles down our main streets. The people, however, choose to place


their faith in the positive vision of Ireland, growing and prospering


within the European Community of nations. Our European path was in


fact the final public contribution of our great revolutionary


generation. As a 16-year-old boy, Shaun escaped from home in order to


fight in the 1916 rising. As a politician a decade later, he read


and was inspired by the idea of a united Europe, proposed by the great


French statesman Briand. When he came Taoiseach at the end of the


19050s, he called for our country to open itself. His governsance laid


the foundations for sustained progress and applied for membership


of the European Community. He told us there would be challenges but the


opportunities would be far greater. This father of our European path and


of modern Ireland died on May 11th 1971, exactly one year before the


result of our accession referendum was announced. His legacy is as


important today as it ever has been. Europe faces a moment of great


uncertainty and in many ways, fear. There's no positive side to Brexit.


But, if we look to our shared history, we see that we have come


through many difficult times before. If we remember the core ideals of


the union, we will get through this process, and secure for another


generation the promise of shared progress, and prosper yited between


the nations of Europe. Thank you very much indeed.




Gerry Adams, please. HE SPEAKS GAELIC


I welcome your presence and your remarks on with behalf of Sinn Fein


and let me tell you a wee bit about us. Sinn Fein is an Irish Republican


Party, we are an all-Ireland party. We have the largest group of Irish


MEPs in the European Parliament. Sinn Fein has TDs, MLSs, Senators,


MPs, MEPs and counsel os, we have a significant mandate and are the only


party substantially organised across this entire Ireland. Sinn Fein is


opposed to the partition of Ireland. We are a united Ireland party. We


want an toned British Government involvement in Irish affairs and we


are working for the unity of all the people of this island, based on


equality, respect and reconciliation. We believe,


absolutely in the core values of equality, liberty, and fraternity


and the foundation of these values in the 1916 proclamation. With


others, Sinn Fein has played a central role in the development of


the peace process and in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent


agreements. We have to create - and we were part of of the national and


international effort that brought an end to conflict on this island, not


least with the European Union, as a critical partner for peace over the


past 20 years. But those who were previously denied the right to work


peacefully for a united Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement commits the


Government to legislate for that, if the people consent to this. Sinn


Fein campaigned, unlike yourself, against Irish membership of the EEC


in 1973. Since then, every European Treaty has taken further powers from


the Irish state. Sinn Fein wants a different type of European Union. We


want a social Europe, which promotes peace, demilitarisation, economic


and social justice, international solidarity and greater democratic


accountability. Today's European Union is wedded to


neo-Liberal policies. These have created widespread hardship, as


austerity, deregulation and privatisation have undermined the


social function of states and the rights of citizens, including the


rights of workers, and increasingly, as you acknowledged in your remarks,


people across the EU are uncomfortable with. And yet yes, has


asisd the growth of far right policies which exploit people's


fears. Brexit, in our opinion is a scone sequence of that. During the


Brexit referendum, Sinn Fein campaigned for a Remain vote in the


North. It is clearly not in the interests of the people of this


island, whatever their background, whatever their views, to have one


part of the island outside the European Union and the other part


inside. I know that you value the peace process and the Good Friday


Agreement. I commend your support for that, as you say, going back to


the time of John Hume and David Trimble. I'm sure you are aware that


any agreement by the EU, that violates an international treaty,


which is what it is, would contravene EU Treaty obligations.


But Brexit is not just an issue for the North. It'll adversely affect


our entire island if we let T it's vital that its challenges are met on


that all-island basis. It is clear and again you acknowledged this in


your remarks, as did the Taoiseach, that Brexit would have a serious and


detrimental affect and is already having this affect on Irish jobs and


businesses and in particular in the agriculture and agri-food sector.


The aim of the European Union, if I may say so, should be to prevent a


land frontier between the European Union and the UK on the island of


Ireland. That should be the key objective, to prevent that land


bored on our island. To achieve this, we have advocated that the


North be afforded designated special status within the European Union. We


also believe that Ireland should have a veto on any agreement reached


between the EU and the British Government, that does not include


this position. Designated status, Mr Barnier, is the best is the only way


to ensure that the entire island of Ireland remains within the European


Union. I commend to you, today that it is an imaginative solution that


addresses the complexities of the problem. It does not affect the


constitutional status of the North. That will only be changed by our


referendum. Designated special status within the European Union is


the position endorsed by this Dail. It is the position of this


Parliament. It is endorsed by the majority of MLAs in the northern


aaccept bli. It also recognises that the people of the North voted to


remain part of the European Union. Is that just going to be set to one


side? Ignored, driven over? It's a solution beinged a vericated by


representatives of border communities and some of them are


here in the Public Gallery and I welcome them. The Tory Government in


England should not be allowed to reject that vote. It should not be


allowed to set aside the way people in the North have decided. They


should not be allowed to drag the North out of the European Union,


against the democratic wishes of citizens. Designated special status


for North, within the European Union, isn't about a hard Brexit, or


a soft Brexit ited, it is about the best interests of our economy, our


peace process and our people. It's also a democratic imperative. It's


about retaining the freedom of movement, of goods, people and


services on the island of Ireland. Any restriction, any restriction


whatsoever on the freedom of movement would represent a hardening


of the border. Believe me, this will severely damage social and economic


cohesion. But beyond acceptable to people living in the border


communities, but also to people across our island. Special status


will assure the North's trading relationship with the rest of yierld


and the European Union, particularly -- rest of yierld and the European,


particularly with agriculture, agri-foods, all of that would be


maintained. It is about allowing all of Ireland to remain in the customs


union, the single market and on to the jurisdiction of the European


Court of Justice. It is about maintaining the European Convention


on Human Rights. It's about protecting the rights of citizens in


the North, who have a right to Irish citizenship and, therefore, to


citizenship of the European Union. Access to EU rights and services


across employment, workers conditions, Social Security, and


health care must also be protected. Now, none of this is beyond our


collective wisdom or our ability. It does require political flexibility


from the European Union. Now, of course, the little Englanders may


object, but let me remind you, and them, that they are looking for


special arrangements with the European Union for themselves. And


there are already unique arrangements in place for other


states. So, the European Union has been flexible on these matters.


There are different forms of integration and relationships for


Member States and non-Member States. These include overseas countries and


territory status, the European free trade association and the separate


customs union. In light of the were visions for Irish unity in the Good


Friday Agreement, the European Union should not diverge from these norms.


Sinn Fein, unlike the Taoiseach, would like to see a referendum on


Irish unity within the next five years. However, the immediate


challenge facing the European Union, and the people of Ireland, is how to


meet the threat of Brexit. And this is all about what kind of Ireland


will emerge after Brexit. And the only way to positively shape that is


through a special designated status for the North, within the European


Union, so merci beaucoup, Mr Barnier, I thank you for your




Thank you Deputy Adams. Thank you. I want to add my words of


welcome to Monsieur Barnier and although my speaking time is brief,


I want to use my proximity to emphasise the point I want to make.


We met many years ago. We were both environment ministers and I know his


commitment to the ideals of Europe. I also know that you appreciate that


the Brexit negotiating mandate is about our vital national interests


and the vital interests of this island as a whole. We have many


concerns. Where are an island, off an island, off the mainland of


Europe. Inevitably, our geography must dictate our policies and


priorities. The negotiating guidelines, with their insistence on


an orderly approach, postpone consideration for what for us will


be the most vital interests until later. To be specific, while the


guidelines do recognise, as other speakers have referenced, the


special position of Northern Ireland, albeit with the real


challenges that others have already underscored. They don't, in my view,


sufficiently recognise the unique challenges that would be faced by us


south of the border. Brexit means that for us, the idea of achieving


the European single market has been set back a generation. That is the


undeniable truth. Bluntly, once the UK leaves, it will no longer make


any real practical day-to-day sense for us to talk about membership of a


true single market in relation to the goods and services that we


import and export. Talk of the single market will, from our


perspective, revert from being almost a practical reality that we


almost had fully achieved towards something more closely resembling an


aspiration. The basic reason, as I said, is one of geography. There


will in future be a large chunk of non-Europe between us and the rest


of the union. Brexit will impact on every aspect of our economic, social


and cultural lives. They will impact on every network that we are already


connected to. This includes in physical and infrastructural terms,


our transport, energy, our telecommunications networks. And it


was therefore impact on Ireland's ability to adhere to EU law. It will


affect, for example, our ability to comply with the EU directive are


squaring a single EU market in at 60 -- electricity when our only power


connections with Northern Ireland and with Britain. Another directive


requires a market without frontiers when most of our external television


comes from Britain. EU directives are based on internal markets,


common markets and interconnectedness. They are


designed to cover enormous territories and immense distances


and to bring them together as one. They aren't designed to leapfrog


over other countries, operating with completely separate rules, to which


we will nonetheless remain truly tied in Ireland in terms of


geography, infrastructure, networks and trade. So our challenge posed


Brexit for Ireland to adhere to policies and to laws that were


designed for an internal EU market, when we will find ourselves removed


from direct access to that market, having few direct infrastructural


connections, remain connected instead to a country outside the


union. All of these factors makes Ireland's case unique in the


negotiations, Michel, that you are about to lead on our behalf. I hope


Michel the views expressed by members in the few short minutes we


have here in the ongoing dialogue we will have with you will - and make


sure you bring is effective as can be a conclusion in our interests.


Thank you. Richard Boyd Barrett, please. As a representative of the


people before profit Alliance and a socialist, Monsieur Barnier, I am a


thorough internationalist, an implacable supporter of


international solidarity and an implacable opponent of the racist


and far right forces that are now rising in Europe. But I ask you in


all sincerity, can we trust you with the issues of international


solidarity, or indeed with the issues of the free movement of


people as they pertain to Europe or to this country? This week, 250


desperate refugees fleeing North Africa drowned in the Mediterranean


because of the EU's Fortress Europe policies. Not free movement


policies, policies denying free movement to desperate people. Can we


trust you with international solidarity when John Daughtry Chez


threatens to let off" a financial bomb in Dublin" if our government


even suggested to burn the gambling bondholders who crippled our economy


and whose activities inflicted absolutely cruel and vicious


austerity on hundreds of thousands of our citizens, leaving us still


today with a legacy of the worst housing and homelessness crisis in


the history of the state, a health service that has been savaged,


incredible hardship imposed on some of our most vulnerable citizens? And


even now, the EU fiscal rules, of which I think you were a significant


architect, cripple our ability to deal with those problems. So I don't


trust the European Union, Mr Barnier, to do a deal that will


vindicate the needs and aspirations of the citizens of this country,


because you have failed to do so in recent years. And indeed have


imposed similar hardship in countries like Greece and Spain and


post-Brexit Italy. But if we are to give you any credibility in your


commitments today, can I just ask you a few simple questions? Will you


guarantee Tom not consider, will you guarantee that Europe will not try


and break up the free travel area between Britain and the UKs will you


guarantee that the European Union will not impose a hard border


between the north and south of this country? And if you believe in


democracy, as the European Union professes to do, will you give us a


vote in this country on the final deal in the negotiations between the


European Union and the UK, so we can decide democratically in this


country whether we believe the best deal has been done? And if you


cannot give those guarantees, frankly, all the noble aspirations


mean very little indeed. It is the failure to give guarantees and


promises on democracy, on rights, and to vindicate genuine


international solidarity that is actually the reason for the


existential crisis that the European Union is now facing. It is to that


that the European Union had better address itself quickly if the


dangerous forces that are rising in Europe are not to gain further




Recorded coverage of the speech by the European Union's lead negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, to the Irish Parliament. With responses from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit, from Thursday 11 May.