General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) is in charge of coordinating the preparations for European Council meetings. GAC is mainly made up of the European Affairs Ministers, or Foreign Affairs Ministers, from all EU countries. In the Brexit negotiations, GAC is responsible for adopting negotiating directives for the European Commission. Minster of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, represents Ireland at GAC.
Good Friday Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement, or the Belfast Agreement, was agreed on 10 April 1998 after multi-party negotiations and is regarded as a cornerstone of the peace process in Northern Ireland. It established a commitment “to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between these [Ireland and Great Britain] islands”. The Irish government, the EU, and the UK government have all committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement in the Brexit negotiations.
Great Repeal Bill
Details of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ were first published by the UK government the day after Article 50 was triggered, 30 March 2017. The bill is now often referred to as the Withdrawal Bill and is currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament under its formal title of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Effectively it seeks to copy EU law into UK law, meaning that after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, all EU laws would remain in force as UK law, unless these laws are amended or repealed by the UK Parliament.
The case of Greenland’s withdrawal from the European Communities is sometimes cited as an example of how complex the UK’s withdrawal negotiations may be. Greenland, as part of Denmark, joined the European Communities at the same time as both Ireland and the UK on 1 January 1973, despite voting against membership in the 1972 Danish referendum on the matter. A decade later, and following the establishment of the Greenland Home Rule Arrangement in 1979, Greenland voted to leave the European Communities in 1982. Denmark resultantly notified the Council of the EU of Greenland’s decision to leave the European Communities, suggesting that the Communities’ rules ‘cease to apply’ to Greenland. The withdrawal treaty, just seven pages in length, took three years to negotiate.
The European Council, the leaders of the EU countries, agree guidelines for the Brexit negotiations at European Council Summits. These guidelines are used to set the priorities of the EU in the negotiations and outline the EU’s position on a range of matters discussed in the Brexit negotiations.