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Snippet Contents:

The Taoiseach reportedly said that Ireland is keen to take part in PESCO but will not make a formal expression of interest until the latter's full remit is clarified. It appears that the Government has concerns about neutrality and is unsure whether the State can join. The Taoiseach referenced that earlier but I am still not clear on his position. Will he clarify matters? Perhaps there might be a full debate in the House on future EU defence policy.
A debate was held on relations with Turkey. The communiqué that was issued contains only a short sentence on the matter but the debate lasted three hours and took up most of the working dinner. Plans are being drawn up to cut aid to Turkey and it appears that the long-stated objective of eventual Turkish membership of the EU may be close to being abandoned. What are the views of the Taoiseach on that issue and where does Ireland currently stand in respect of it? He reportedly said that Turkey is no longer on a European path.
I welcome the reaffirmation of European Union support for the Iran nuclear deal that other Members have mentioned and the strong statement made by the Council regarding North Korea.
After another summit, we are no closer to an agreement. If anything, we are edging inexorably closer to a hard Brexit. Initial reports were positive but the leaking and spinning in respect of Prime Minister May's dinner with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, confirms the lack of trust, with recriminations emerging from both camps. The Taoiseach said - he repeated it today - that three key issues relating to phase 1 do not have to be resolved but that sufficient progress has to be made for the talks to move to the next phase. A report published on www.bloomberg.com last week suggested that Ireland was considering seeking guarantees that no border would be reimposed on the island as a price for allowing Brexit talks to advance. What is the Irish position and was that request made?
The Council's Article 50 conclusions focus on convergence on principles and objectives regarding protection of the Good Friday Agreement. Unfortunately, principles and objectives are not sufficient at this point and concrete proposals are needed. The suggestions emanating from the European Council that, by December, discussions with the United Kingdom may be able to move towards the next phase are a cause of concern because, as I said at a meeting earlier, our leverage will be diminished once we move from the first phase. I do not believe Ireland can entirely rely on either the UK or the EU 27 to ensure that our interests are fully protected. The train is coming at us rather quickly. The British Government remains woefully incoherent. Focusing more on the individual components could soften the political sensitivity regarding, for example, the exit bill, but I have yet to hear proposals from either the EU or the UK on how structural and PEACE funding for Northern Ireland might be dealt with.
It would be great if sufficient progress on the three key issues could be made by December but I fear that will not be the case. If sufficient progress has not been made on the issue relating to Ireland by the time of the December Council meeting, then we must be prepared to say that we cannot allow matters to progress to phase 2.