British-Irish conference could help cooperation after Brexit - Varadkar


A rarely-used forum for Anglo/Irish cooperation on Northern Ireland could help ministers keep in touch after Brexit, the Irish Taoiseach has suggested.

The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIGC) is to meet in London on July 25, 18 months after devolved government imploded in Belfast.

The mechanism gives the Irish a consultative role on non-devolved issues affecting Northern Ireland. It last met in 2007.

Leo Varadkar said: "Potentially it is a body that could be expanded to provide for structured cooperation between the British Government and the Irish Government after Brexit.

"Because while we see each other all the time, ministers meet their counterparts, I meet the Prime Minister four or five times a year here in Brussels, after the UK leaves the EU those interactions may not necessarily happen any more.

"So we need an alternative mechanism to do that and I think the BIGC could potentially be the mechanism by which we continue to cooperate and stay close as countries and Governments."

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While the Cabinet Office did not mention the powersharing impasse in a statement announcing the initiative, instead describing the focus as "East West issues", Ireland's deputy premier Simon Coveney said "Northern Ireland issues" would be on the agenda.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will attend.

The Irish government will be represented by Mr Coveney and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.