EU’s Juncker tells of need to ‘pro­tect’ the Belfast Agree­ment at Brexit talks

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN RAE

JEAN Claude Juncker has spo­ken of his de­sire to pro­tect the Good Fri­day Agree­ment in ne­go­ti­a­tions over the fu­ture of the Ir­ish bor­der af­ter the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union.

Inanex­clu­sivein­ter­viewwith the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion de­scribed the bor­der as a “de­mand­ing is­sue”.

“I don’t want to put in dan­ger the Good Fri­day Agree­ment — which was a ma­jor achieve­ment of Euro­pean, and Bri­tish and Ir­ish pol­icy-mak­ing dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 1990s,” he said.

“And we have to know that this is an is­sue we should not deal with in a su­per­fi­cial way be­cause it’s a de­mand­ing is­sue.”

Asked if the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment would ever get its act to­gether on the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, he replied: “I’m not in charge of Bri­tain or London. I never was, by the way.”

He praised the work of Michel Barnier, the EU com­mis­sioner in charge of Brexit, in re­la­tion to ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Ir­ish bor­der. “I wouldn’t like us to re-ex­pe­ri­ence what the Re­pub­lic and the North had to go through in re­cent decades,” he said.

“I have full con­fi­dence in the el­e­gant way Michel Barnier is deal­ing with that ques­tion and he is con­sid­er­ing this ques­tion as be­ing of high im­por­tance.”

Mr Juncker also re­vealed that there would be no in­ter­fer­ence with Ir­ish tax rates with­out the con­sent of the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment.

In com­ments that will be seen as cru­cially im­por­tant to Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, he claimed the Good Fri­day Agree­ment was an EU vic­tory that must be pro­tected.

That sense of EU own­er­ship over the peace process will de­light Ir­ish di­plo­mats and sig­nals a po­ten­tially more co-op­er­a­tive ap­proach to the vexed ques­tion of the bor­der in Brexit talks.

Ear­lier this week Mr Juncker had stoked fears for Ire­land’s eco­nomic well­be­ing when he called for a rad­i­cal shake-up of EU rules that would strip in­di­vid­ual coun­tries of the right to block changes to tax law.

The head of Ire­land’s Fis­cal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, Sea­mus Cof­fey, said the move to in­tro­duce a com­mon con­sol­i­dated cor­po­rate tax base would be “more se­ri­ous” than Brexit for Ire­land.

How­ever, in his only in­ter­view with Ir­ish me­dia, Mr Juncker ap­peared to mod­ify his stance — ad­mit­ting he’s al­ready come un­der at­tack in his home coun­try of Lux­em­bourg over the con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als.

“When it comes to tax­a­tion, be­cause that was your ques­tion, I was propos­ing if the Euro­pean Coun­cil did so, by unan­i­mous de­ci­sion, to change the vot­ing rules in the Euro­pean Union when it comes to tax­a­tion,” he said.

“But if you have una­nim­ity or qual­i­fied ma­jor­ity vot­ing, this is not... this does not mean that these things could be done with­out de­bate.”

INM ed­i­tor-in-chief Stephen Rae with Jean Claude Juncker

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.