Ireland and UK agree to 'maintain and strengthen' bilateral co-operation after Brexit

It was the first time the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference met in over a decade

Ireland and UK agree to 'maintain and strengthen' bilateral co-operation after Brexit

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (right) and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan arrive to attend the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London | Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

The Irish and British Governments say bilateral co-operation between the two countries needs to be 'maintained and strengthened' following the departure of Britain from the EU.

Representatives from Dublin and London have attended a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in the British capital.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney attended the meeting along with the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley also attend the conference, along with the UK's Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington.

Discussions took place on a range of issues.

Following the meeting, a joint communiqué was issued setting out the areas of discussion.

This included legacy issues, security co-operation, East-West bilateral issues and political stability in Northern Ireland.

The conference agreed that high levels of bilateral cooperation needed to be maintained and, "where possible, strengthened" following Brexit.

Officials were asked to take forward work in this area, with a view to coming forward with proposals for future East-West cooperation - including at cabinet and ministerial level - for consideration at a future meeting.

Good Friday Agreement

Both governments reiterated their "strong support for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements which have underpinned the progress made in Northern Ireland over the past two decades and which provide the framework for the political process in Northern Ireland."

The two governments also "re-affirmed their shared commitment to all of the political institutions established by the agreement and to securing the effective operation of power-sharing, devolved government in Northern Ireland and the consequent resumption of the North/South Ministerial Council and Northern Ireland participation in the British Irish Council at the earliest opportunity."

Both governments agreed to continue working closely together in accordance with the three-stranded approach as set out in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Threat from paramilitaries

Speaking after the meeting Mr Coveney said: "It was important that the conference met to discuss issues of mutual interest to the Irish and British Governments, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.

"There was a good discussion and I look forward to engaging with the British government through the conference as we continue to work together as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to seek the effective operation of all of the institutions of the agreement."

While Minister Flanagan said: "Combating violence from paramilitary groups has always been a priority for the Irish Government and I am determined that we will continue to work with the British government to bring such violence to an end.

"The conference reiterated the importance of enhancing our strong, ongoing co-operation in the face of the shared threat from paramilitaries.

"The good work of the gardaí and the PSNI remains central our approach and we will continue to work together to ensure the safety and security of all communities."

Other issues - such as calls for abortion reform or same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland - were not discussed.

The BBC reported that after the formal conference, Mr Coveney was expected to hold a separate meeting with the new UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.

It was agreed the conference would meet again in the autumn.

This was the first time a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held in over decade.

Its last meeting was in Co Louth back in 2007 - just before the DUP and Sinn Féin confirmed their willingness to share power at Stormont.