Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett

Former Ambassador to Ireland, Dublin

Part of Brexit

31st January 2020 Dublin, Ireland

A message from Ambassador Robin Barnett: Our relationship is unique and will remain a strong and vital one – now and for the years to come.”

Today, the UK is leaving the EU. It is a significant moment. We want a new positive partnership between the UK and the EU. And we want to strengthen the unique and hugely important relationship between the UK and Ireland, which matters so much to all of us.

What will change from 31 January?

It is important to emphasise that the UK is not leaving Europe. We will continue to be friends and partners, working together to promote and defend the values which we share. We will continue to honour and to treasure our shared European culture and civilisation. Our outlook will always be global: standing shoulder to shoulder with our friends and allies on this continent and beyond.

However, I understand that people will have questions, even concerns, about what the UK leaving the EU means for you or your families. I want to offer reassurance on this.

If you are a British citizen living in Ireland, or an Irish citizen living in the UK, it is important to know that your rights will be protected by the Common Travel Area. It’s a longstanding agreement between our countries which predates our membership of the EU. More information for British citizens is available online, including steps you need to take by 31 December 2020. You can watch our video about the CTA or read our Living in Ireland Guide which includes a Q&A with British citizens. Do sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter/Facebook for further updates.

If you are part of a business which trades between Ireland and the UK you will see no change before the end of 2020 as we will be entering the Transition Period. During this time negotiations on our future relationship with the EU will take place and further information will be available closer to that time about any changes businesses may need to make.

If you live near or travel across the Northern Ireland-Ireland border you will experience no change. The Withdrawal Agreement that has been signed by the UK and the EU ensures that there will be no hard border.

Looking ahead – UK-Ireland relations

Finalising the Withdrawal Agreement means that we can now look ahead – both to agree the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and to reinforce and deepen UK-Ireland relations, which matter to so many on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Our relationship matters because of the many ties that bind us: ties of family, friendship, our shared history and geography, our sporting rivalries and cultural connections.

Our relationship matters because of our shared commitment to Northern Ireland, and in particular to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The British and Irish Governments worked hand in hand to support the Northern Ireland parties to restore power-sharing.

And we are both delighted to see the Northern Ireland Executive back up and running, and in a position to make a real difference. Our support for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement will remain unshakable.

Our relationship matters because it contributes to our shared prosperity. We are each other’s nearest markets, with trade between us worth over £1 billion per week. We have traded between these islands for generations and the UK will remain a liberal, free trading nation, which will remain welcoming to Irish businesses.

Our role in the Embassy

Here at the British Embassy in Ireland, and our partners, the British Council, our mission is to support and deepen the connections between the UK and Ireland that underpin our close relationship.

We support UK and Irish businesses who want to trade and invest. Last year we supported innovation in agriculture by opening our first ever pavilion at The National Ploughing Championships, we helped all forms of Irish tech companies scale up and sell into the UK market and we championed Ireland’s leading agri-food and food production companies’ expansion of their international operations in the UK.

We link businesses in South West Ireland and the UK regions through our ‘Joining the Dots’ programme. Last year we connected Cork with Coventry and the next phase is expanding the project to Limerick and Kerry.

We highlight our shared values, seeking out opportunities to demonstrate our joint commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, equality – including gender, disability, and LGBT rights – as well as fundamental principles such as freedom of expression. Last year we participated in Dublin Pride, worked with partners to highlight International Day for People with Disabilities and hosted a #GlencairnConversation on the online abuse and harassment of female journalists.

We help connect researchers and innovators from across the UK and Ireland to tackle the big challenges we all face. Last year we facilitated a workshop for those working on Anti-Microbial Resistance from across the island of Ireland and we introduced leading Irish thinkers on Artificial Intelligence to counterparts in the UK as both our countries seek to harness the opportunities arising from new technologies.

Working in partnership with the British Council, we help deepen our cultural connections by supporting connections between talented artists. For example, in the coming weeks we are delighted to enable ‘Imagining Ireland’ a collaboration between the National Concert Hall and the Barbican Centre to be part of the Galway 2020 programme.

We cooperate to ensure the security and safety of all our citizens across the Common Travel Area. Excellent working relationships between An Garda Síochána and UK policing, and between HMRC and the Irish Revenue Commissioners allow us to tackle serious organised crime and cross-border crime, leading to seizures, in both Ireland and the UK, of firearms and drugs, as well as arrests of high profile criminals. The closure of illegal cigarette production and illicit fuel distillation plants is protecting loss of revenue for tax payers.

And we support close connections between our governments and heads of State to steer the relationship. There have been regular visits to Ireland since the historic visit of Her Majesty the Queen in 2011 from members of the Royal Family, including last year when the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the beautiful county of Wicklow.

This year, we are planning to do even more to build a modern and dynamic relationship based on mutual understanding. In the run up to the UK hosting the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow we will have a particular focus on how the UK and Ireland can work together to tackle the critical issue of climate change. And we will be engaging young people in our work to ensure that the relationship reflects their priorities for the future.

We also want 2020 to be a year of growth and opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland. Support for reconciliation, and for the economic and social wellbeing of Northern Ireland, will continue to be at the heart of our approach. The UK government will continue to deliver on the commitment for an ambitious set of City and Growth deals across Northern Ireland, investing £562m across Northern Ireland’s 11 Council areas. Alongside this we will continue our funding to EU PEACE fund and its successor EU Peace Plus, after we leave the EU.

In summary

The UK’s departure from the EU means the context for the UK-Ireland relationship will be different. But it does not change the fundamentals:

Citizens’ rights will be protected.

Businesses will continue to trade.

There will be no change at the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.

Our relationship is unique and will remain a strong and vital one – now and for the years to come – because it matters so much to all of us.

About Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated…

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated on Central and Eastern Europe and multi-lateral diplomacy.

Robin began his career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1980 as Desk Officer for Indonesia and the Philippines. In addition to Ireland, he has been posted to Vienna, New York and Bucharest, where he was Ambassador. He has also served as Director of UK Visas and Managing Director of the Business Group in UK Trade and Investment

Robin studied Law at Birmingham University. He has a son and a stepson and is a great admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson and a supporter of Manchester United.