While welcoming the joint statement of the European Commission and the United Kingdom outlining progress made on the terms of the draft Withdrawal Agreement since the last negotiation round in March, Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament has said, however, she remains concerned that “serious divergences” remain on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Speaking from Brussels today, ahead of Brexit meetings in Dublin tomorrow with Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker she said: “The Withdrawal Agreement must contain a fully operational backstop solution for Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
She said it’s a point that has also been reinforced by Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator for Article 50 negotiations, who has said: “We have advanced on some separation issues for which European businesses need certainty, such as customs, VAT, Euratom(*) and certificates for goods. Engagement by the UK on remaining issues such as the protection of personal data and geographical indications is also to be welcomed. Serious divergences remain, however, on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.”
McGuinness commented, “It is positive for European businesses that progress has been made on issues such as customs and VAT – they need certainty as soon as possible so that they can prepare for the UK’s withdrawal. But there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a fully operation backstop.”
Mr Barnier will present the state of play of the negotiations to the European Council (Article 50) which takes place on 28 and 29 June 2018, and to the European Parliament. Negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement will continue over the coming weeks, together with the discussions on the framework for the future relationship.
“I look forward to meeting Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker in Dublin tomorrow (Thursday). I expect that they will express their strong support for Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. Brexit is a major issue for Ireland and particularly so for my border constituency of Midlands North West,” she said.
The Vice-President will travel to Rotterdam on Friday of this week to address a conference on “Countdown to Brexit, Are we ready”, which will also be addressed by the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator.
“While acknowledging some progress, it is of concern that so much work needs to be done before October on the Withdrawal Agreement,” Ms McGuinness added.
(* nuclear material institution)