Brussels ‘melancholy’ over draft EU Withdrawal agreement, says Irish negotiator

One of Ireland’s chief negotiators has said after the EU accepted the Brexit draft proposals there was a collective sense of melancholy in Brussels.

Rory Montgomery, Second Secretary General of the European Union Division, said the mood in the room last week was one of loss.

“It was a very strange occasion,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of negotiations over the years at EU level, it’s normal at a minimum, at the end of a negotiation to have a sense of relief, or a sense of contentment, or even elation in some cases, for instance, it took me five days to come down from the Good Friday Agreement.

“There was no such sense in Brussels five days ago, it was melancholy, it was a sense of loss.

“Nobody was pleased or happy about this, and was compounded by the huge uncertainty of where the politics of this is going.”

Mr Montgomery was speaking on Tuesday at an event for Irish Local Authority representatives on how to prepare for the UK leaving the EU.

The one-time adviser to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was standing in for an absent Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

POLITICS Brexit
POLITICS Brexit

He added Brexit has already had a negative effect on Northern Ireland and an “extraordinary destabilising impact on community relations and political structures”.

“These have been extraordinarily difficult negotiations, my colleagues, at times, have literally been in the next room as discussions were taking place, we were clearly the country most clearly concerned by this,” Mr Montgomery said.

“The Good Friday Agreement itself is premised on the fact that Northern Ireland of course is different.

“The backstop of course would not be our first choice, but we, the EU, we’re extremely open to any negotiation of an alternative which would make it unnecessary, where the future relationship could solve theses problems, and that would be everybody’s preference.

“Across the board, it’s bad news, with a few bright spots.”

Brexit
Brexit

Mr Montgomery added the support from the EU and member states had been indispensable to Ireland, a sentiment echoed by Mr Kenny earlier.

“Europe has been rock-solid in support of Ireland’s position here and in support of its own programme for the future of the European Union,” Mr Kenny said at the Limerick Chamber Regional Leaders Programme.

“The 27 members of the union are completely united in the agreement that has been put on the table and that has been accepted by the British Government.

“The British have got to sort this out for themselves now.”

A five-day debate on the European Union Withdrawal Agreement began in House of Commons on Tuesday before the the make-or-break vote on December 11.