108. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he spoke with Mr. Michel Barnier regarding the way in which total alignment would work after Brexit in March 2019. (Question 19731/18 asked on 08 May 2018)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 108 together.

The Taoiseach and I met with Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator for the Article 50 negotiations, on 30 April in advance of his address to the All-Island Civic Dialogue. Our meeting offered an opportunity to take stock of the current state of play in the negotiations on both the future relationship and the draft Withdrawal Agreement, including progress on the draft Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

There was agreement at the meeting that significantly more progress is needed on the Protocol, including the backstop on avoiding a hard border, ahead of the June meeting of the European Council. Recalling the European Council Guidelines of 23 March 2018 and the principles that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full, there was also agreement that there can be no Withdrawal Agreement without a satisfactory agreement on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The backstop for avoiding a hard border, as contained in the draft Protocol, seeks to maintain full alignment with those rules of the Single Market and Customs Union that are necessary to protect North South cooperation, the all-island economy and the Good Friday Agreement, which includes the overarching guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Mr Barnier reaffirmed the importance of this in his address to the All-Island Civic Dialogue on the same day.

Furthermore, this alignment is in the context of the recognition in the Protocol that it is necessary to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland through a unique solution.

It was not necessary at the meeting to enter into detail on the draft Protocol. Ireland fully supports the Commission’s view that it will be necessary for all the EU rules involved to be listed in annexes to the Protocol. The rules in question would essentially be those dealing with customs, the free movement of goods, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures relevant to agricultural trade and the movement of animals. Future revision of such rules would also be covered. EU and UK negotiators are continuing work on agreeing the full list of the acquis concerned, which is very substantial and detailed.