Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne TD addressed the Oireachtas Joint Committee for EU Affairs this morning regarding the Trade and Co-operation Agreement and more specifically the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In his opening statement, Minister Byrne said “the Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect on 1st January 2021. It plays a vital role in protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, as well as protecting the integrity of the single market and Ireland’s place in it”.
Committee members questioned the situation that led to the EU Commission’s recent decision to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol with Members asking about the circumstances that led to that decision and seeking assurances that it would not happen again.
“It is very unfortunate that the Protocol got caught up in the issue of EU vaccine procurement last week. It was regrettable that the Commission did not consult with us in advance of the ostensible invoking of Article 16. This decision was rightfully rescinded shortly after An Taoiseach spoke with President von der Leyen” Minister Byrne said.
The Minister outlined to the Committee the ongoing engagement that is taking place, at all levels, with the EU institutions, with counterparts and between leaders and Ministers, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Speaking specifically to the Protocol, Minister Byrne emphasised the importance of making the Protocol work on the ground for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“We need to ensure that the Protocol works for every section of society in Northern Ireland. We want to make this work and work for everybody. There are systems and structures in place to deal with issues that may arise, and they should be used to resolve such issues. Brexit is a very difficult situation but we need to make the best of it and I believe the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol can do that” Minister Byrne concluded.
9 February 2021