Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee is accompanying Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar to Brussels today for a series of meetings of the European Council today and on Friday.
The Taoiseach joins the British Prime Minister, Theresa May and 26 other EU leaders this afternoon in ‘Article 50 format’, to discuss the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Discussions will focus on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. Mrs May survived a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party in Britain last night.
The European Council will also hold further meetings on the Union's budget - the Multi-Annual Financial Framework - for the period 2022 to 2027, as well the Single Market, migration and external relations.
Other issues, including consultations with citizens on the future of Europe, measures to address disinformation, and the fight against racism and xenophobia, will also be discussed over the two days.
The Taoiseach will attend a Euro Summit on Friday, which is expected to focus on economic and monetary union.
Local authorities face a number of uncertainties due to Brexit but are focussed on building resilience in their areas to prepare, the Meath County chief executive, Jackie Maguire, has stated.
Addressing the conference Local Authorities – Implications for Local Authorities and their Areas, Ms Maguire, who is chair of the County and City Management Association (CCMA) said Brexit has been to the forefront of local authority considerations since the UK vote to leave the EU.
“Preparing for the unknown is a huge challenge. In the local authority sector, our approach has been to consider all our plans and actions through the lens of Brexit, while maintaining close contact with Government and relevant departments throughout the negotiation period,” she said.
As well as the potential impact on local business and economic development, there are a number of practical implications for local authorities, particularly in border regions.
Citing the current arrangement, where the Northern Irish Fire Service provides first response to call outs in parts of Donegal and giving the further example of an ongoing cross-border greenway project, she said, “While both the Republic and Northern Ireland have been members of the EU, we have been able to work collaboratively on shared infrastructure development and shared service provision. We now face into an unknown situation as to whether that can continue.”
The CCMA Chair also highlighted the impact Brexit may have on environmental standards, “Currently we apply relatively consistent environmental policies north and south; this is the best way to achieve results. The Water Framework Directive, for example, is implemented in both jurisdictions to manage river basins and improve water quality but rivers don’t stop at borders.”
Discussing local authorities’ role in enterprise development and tourism, Jackie Maguire said: “Local authorities will do what we can to proactively mitigate against the worst impacts of Brexit and capitalise on any opportunities.
“This will involve not only our economic development and tourism teams but teams across our organisations – in planning, roads, housing, infrastructure and other areas. We will ensure efficient, responsive services and ambitious plans that will encourage enterprise, entice visitors and allow our areas to thrive.”
Jackie Maguire commended the work Local Enterprise Offices have been doing to support business in their areas, “This is a very uncertain time for businesses. The full and free access we have enjoyed to our closest market in the UK has meant it is the first market to which many local businesses and SMEs expand. Many companies need to be brought up to speed on the issues that may be involved when the UK becomes a third country, and also need to be supported to help expand their markets. Local Enterprise Offices have been doing excellent work with businesses in their areas and will continue to help them to prepare.”
The Irish Exporters Association has called on the Government and the European Union to urgently intensify its no-deal contingency planning following this week’s developments in the UK. Monday’s decision by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to defer the scheduled parliamentary vote on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement further increases the risk of a disorderly no-deal, it says.
Simon McKeever, Chief Executive of the Irish Exporters Association, said: “The risk of a no-deal Brexit has significantly increased following this week’s stunning developments in the internal UK debate on Brexit. The potential economic impacts of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019 will be immediate, extensive and far-reaching for Irish businesses.
Today, we reiterate our previous calls for the Government to publish and implement its no-deal Brexit contingency plans to mitigate its worst impacts and ensure basic continuity of trade at a minimum.
This afternoon, Thursday, 13 December, DCU Brexit Institute hosts a free event, 'Brexit, The Back-Stop & the Island of Ireland', at The Helix, DCU, Glasnevin from 3pm-6.30pm
Following opening remarks by Prof Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, the event will feature a keynote address from John Bruton, former Taoiseach and former Ambassador of the European Union to the United States.
This will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Fintan O'Toole (Journalist, Commentator), with Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance Party); Bobby McDonagh (Former Irish Diplomat); Chloe Papazian (DCU Brexit Institute) and Owen Reidy (Irish Congress of Trade Unions).
The closing plenary will be provided by Giuliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy; former Vice President of European Convention; Justice of the Constitutional Court of Italy.