European Affairs Minister heads to London to discuss bilateral relations at BIPA meeting

European Affairs Minister heads to London to discuss bilateral relations at BIPA meeting

IRELAND'S Minister of State for European Affairs has headed to London for the 61st British Irish Parliamentary Assembly plenary.

Thomas Byrne is set for face-to-face discussions on bilateral relations as the plenary is held in person for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

BIPA seeks to promote co-operation and build relationships between political representatives in Britain and Ireland, providing a forum for discussion and a means to improve mutual understanding.

As well as the BIPA plenary, the Fianna Fáil TD is set to deliver a keynote address to the London School of Economics Law School during his three-day visit.

'Strengthening relations'

Mr Byrne, who will address the Assembly on Monday, said he will focus on the 'continuing importance of British Irish relations'.

The ramifications of Brexit and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine are also likely to feature in discussions.

"I welcome the opportunity to meet and engage in person with members of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly," said Mr Byrne ahead of Monday's plenary.

"As Minister for European Affairs, I am committed to strengthening our relations with all our partners across Europe.

"BIPA is an important forum for building relationships between British and Irish parliamentarians.

"The main theme of the 61st plenary will be relations across our islands.

"I look forward to setting out Ireland's perspective in a post-Brexit context, of the continuing importance of British Irish relations, particularly in relation to our joint commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, as well as our ambitions to develop them further as well as the current key issues in EU-UK relations."

'Challenges for all jurisidictions'

British-Irish relations have been tested since Brexit and have come under increased pressure in recent weeks amid disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which prompted First Minister Paul Givan to resign recently.

The arrangement, which aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, would be under threat if Article 16 of the protocol is triggered.

Irish co-chair Brendan Smith TD hinted both the challenges of the protocol and Russia's invasion of Ukraine would be up for discussion.

"The UK's withdrawal from the European Union and the Northern Ireland Protocol have presented challenges for all our jurisdictions," said the Fianna Fáil chairman.

"In addition, Russia's assault on Ukraine creates new threats to the rules-based international order.

"As we emerge from the pandemic in the post-Brexit landscape, and face new challenges, we look forward to intensifying parliamentary engagement between the UK and Ireland."

Also among those addressing the BIPA plenary are James Cleverly, Minister of State for Europe and North America, Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Conor Burns, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and John Finucane MP, speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that during his visit, Mr Byrne will hold bilateral meetings with Mr Cleverly, Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, Kevin Foster MP and Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

For his address to the LSE Law School, Mr Byrne said he will set out his perspective on EU-UK relations post-Brexit.

"We are now more than one year on from the end of the transition period and the beginning of this new phase in EU-UK relations," he said.

"It is an opportune time to take stock of what has been achieved, as well as to examine the questions that persist."