EUROPEAN Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said Ireland will come first in the Brexit negotiations, while its 300-mile border with Europe is a key political priority.
During an address to a joint sitting of Dáil Éireann and the Seanad on June 21st, as part of his two-day visit to the capital, Juncker said Dublin was not alone in the talks and had the backing of the 26 other Member States. ‘I am strongly against any temptation to try to isolate Ireland and not to conclude a deal on Ireland … it has to be part of the deal,’ he said.
During a joint press conference with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Juncker sought to allay any fears of a ‘hard border’ once the UK leaves the bloc next spring: ‘The Irish border is Europe’s border and is our Union’s priority,’ the former Luxembourg premier said. He described UK Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s proposal of allowing the whole of the UK to conform to EU customs regulation until 2021 as unworkable.
‘We have less than 10 months until Brexit, we need more answers and fewer new questions,’ he said. Both Varadkar and Juncker acknowledged the stalemate in talks with London on the withdrawal agreement.
Varadkar was blunt and said ‘there was not much time left’ to finalise a deal and have it operational and called on London to intensify its efforts in the months ahead. EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator were also present during the joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
EU leaders are gathering in Brussels this week, June 28th and 29th to discuss progress made on Brexit talks so far.
• Rose O’Donovan is Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels based publication AGRA FACTS & has been following the evolution of European farm policy for over ten years.