Engagement between all parties key to protecting Good Friday agreement post-Brexit
Today, in partnership with our colleagues in the European Parliament's Liaison Office in London, we held a very successful, informative and engaging webinar on Brexit and the profound impact this will have on the entire island of Ireland.
Dr. Katy Hayward of Queens University Belfast chaired a discussion consisting of a very distinguished panel:
- Mairead McGuinness, MEP and First Vice-President, European Parliament
- The Earl of Kinnoull, Chair of the EU Select Committee, House of Lords
- Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance Party, Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Northern Ireland Assembly
Dr. Hayward introduced the panel while also noting the significance of cross border co-ordination and webinars such as this one.
First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, remains optimistic about a post-Brexit deal and once again stressed that the European Parliament wants a close relationship with the UK but that this was conditional on the full implementation of the withdrawal agreement. In her closing remarks, VP McGuinness also said that the deadlock must come to an end.
The Earl of Kinnoull agreed that the deadlock must end stating that there are differences in interpretation of the withdrawal agreement but that the lack of trust on both sides is becoming a problem. The Earl of Kinnoull stated: "No one in the UK government intends not to respect an international agreement, that has never been the case". He also regretted that the question of the continuation of the European Union's representation office in Belfast has become politicised. He believes that whether such an office is needed and what would be required of it are issues that can be addressed once the details of the post-Brexit deal become clear.
Naomi Long MLA added to the debate with her experience as a former MEP and current Northern Irish public representative, pointing to challenges that are specific to Northern Ireland and emphasising the importance of unity of voice and purpose in Northern Ireland and of dialogue between all stakeholders in Brussels, Belfast, London and Dublin. She highlighted also the additional challenges to negotiations brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The MLA stated further that an office in Belfast would act as a bridge for engagement between the UK and the EU.
The webinar, which was followed by a Q+A, was attended by over 200 guests and was very well received.