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Snippet Contents:

I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the Minister of State a happy new year.
The outcomes of the European Council meeting before Christmas are important and cover many areas. As Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, I will refer mostly to the Brexit negotiations.
It is welcome that significant progress has been made to allow the negotiations to move from phase one to phase two. The negotiations are important for Ireland and likely to impact one way or another on every parish, workplace and home. While many in the United Kingdom believe that no deal is better than a bad one, I do not agree. We all know that the potential consequences of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union could be disastrous. The confirmation that the United Kingdom has proposed and the European Union has accepted a transition period of two years is good news. It gives all of our businesses time to get ready and prepare. This step was hugely significant for Ireland and the rest of the European Union. The impact of Brexit on Ireland will be significant because of geography, history, trade and so on; therefore every aspect of the negotiations is vital for all of us.
There are, however, issues that are unique to Ireland and they have been extremely well recognised by the other member states. I congratulate all those on the Irish side who worked so hard to explain the position and recognise the solidarity we received from all of these countries. The Government, the Civil Service and our diplomats played their parts, while Oireachtas Members also made every effort to talk to fellow parliamentarians in other member states to raise issues and explain their context every time they had an opportunity to do so. A strong consensus was built and our friends supported us, which ended up being important in getting us to where we are now. However, while all of that was complicated, the next phase will be more difficult as there will be negotiations on a transitional arrangement, a withdrawal agreement and the start of work on the framework for a future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.