07 Sep 2017


Brexit, Brussels Daily

Excerpts from Statement by Michel Barnier on the publication of the Guiding Principles for the Dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland (statement in full here)

Good afternoon to all of you,

I am happy to see you again after only one week. I hope it is not too much for you.

I attach great importance to the sincerity and quality of our dialogue with the Member States, of which I am also the negotiator, and with the European Parliament. And so these few hours, barely a day that we need to inform them is extremely important.

For the rest, I am familiar with what is usually happens in the European institutions about these leaks, and that is why I have clearly wanted to practice transparency since the beginning of my mission, which I have said from  the beginning. I prefer transparency to leaks, so that you and I are on an  equal footing.


Let me come back to the point of this press conference.

Today, we published our guiding principles for the dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

We also published four papers on issues that will need to be part of the withdrawal agreement.

Let me first focus on Ireland.

The European Council and the European Parliament have recognised the unique situation and the specific circumstances on the island of Ireland.

I see this specific situation as a special responsibility.

  • First, the responsibility to preserve the peace process and the gains of the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts.
  • Secondly, the responsibility to maintain the Common Travel Area.
  • Thirdly, the responsibility to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

We need first to agree on political principles. Discussing technical solutions would be premature in the political context of Northern Ireland.

We are working hand in hand with the Irish government. And I want to thank the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and their teams in Dublin and also in Brussels, for their commitment.

I also want to thank the other Member States and the European Parliament for their full support. We have seen in these negotiations that Ireland’s interest is the 27’s interest – and vice versa.

The UK said that it is ready to ensure that the Common Travel Area can continue to operate while respecting Ireland’s obligations as an EU Member State, including in relation to free movement.

On the Good Friday Agreement, the UK, as co-guarantor, will also need to put solutions forward.

In particular:

  • The interlocking political institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement will need to continue operating effectively.
  • We need to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland while respecting Ireland’s place in the Single Market.
  • North-South cooperation will need to be preserved in all policy areas.
  • Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland must continue to enjoy their rights as EU citizens. It is the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish, or British, or both.
  • The European Union will honour its financial commitments in favour of programmes supporting the peace process such as PEACE and INTERREG. We expect the UK to do the same as part of its financial settlement.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we are not there yet.

The solution for the border issue will need to be unique. It cannot preconfigure the future relationship between the European Union and the UK. It will require both sides to be flexible and creative.

What I see in the UK’s paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland worries me.

The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, its Customs Union, and its Single Market at what will be a new external border of the EU.

And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations.

This will not happen.

Creativity and flexibility cannot be at the expense of the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

This would not be fair for Ireland and it would not be fair for the European Union.

Ladies and gentlemen, On Ireland as well as on citizens’ rights and the Financial Regulation, we need sufficient progress to make progress.You see in our paper today what our definition of “sufficient progress” is, what political progress we have to make in relation to Ireland.Once this step is over, we will draft with the United Kingdom the Treaty organizing its orderly withdrawal.This Treaty, under Article 50, must of course be precise. It must create legal certainty on all the subjects where the Brexit has created and creates uncertainty, on our three priority subjects, but also on technical subjects that the negotiations must clarify in the coming months.To achieve this security and legal precision, we are today publishing four papers presenting our positions on intellectual property rights, customs, data protection exchanged before withdrawal and public procurement.In total, since June 14 we have published 14 papers which cover the subjects of the orderly withdrawal from the United Kingdom..And I want to say that it is positive, from my point of view, that the UK is also publishing new positions, including in the days ahead. We will study these papers carefully by working on what is the orderly withdrawal and keeping for later what concerns the future relationship.What matters to us is that these papers are sufficiently precise to move forward concretely.


Ladies and gentlemen, The sooner we see sufficient progress, real progress, the sooner we start discussing at the same time a possible transition period, if requested by the United Kingdom, and our future relationship which will require a second treaty.Through this second treaty, we want an ambitious agreement with the United Kingdom, not only for trade but also for our necessary cooperation in security, counter-terrorism and defense.This second treaty must be founded and built on a balance of rights and obligations, as is the case with each of the agreements we have already concluded with third countries.I am thinking, for example, of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which have chosen to be part of the single market, to accept its rules and to contribute financially to European cohesion.I am also thinking of Canada, with whom we have just negotiated a very ambitious free trade agreement, AACC. Canada is not part of the domestic market. It does not have the opportunities or the obligations.It is well understood that it is not possible and will not be possible for a third State to have at the same time the benefits of the Norwegian model and the weak constraints of the Canadian model.And it is in the light of these principles that the United Kingdom knows well since it has been applying them for 44 years, which we look forward to and that we will study with objectivity and I promise you constructively the next proposals of the British government that we need to make progress.

Thank you


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