In context: the British-Irish Council

What is the British-Irish Council?

The British-Irish Council (BIC) is an intergovernmental organization formed in December 1999 as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. It was agreed in April 1998 between the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland parties after two years of negotiations.

The BIC was established to further promote positive and practical relationships among its members and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation.

Who attends the council?

It has eight members: the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom, which are signatory members; Scotland; North Ireland; Welsh; Guernsey; the Isle of Man; and Jersey. This is the only international forum where all eight members attend together.

The leaders of the UK devolved governments, along with the UK Prime Minister, the Taoiseach of Ireland and the Chief Ministers of the Channel Islands, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are the heads of their respective members, but not always attend council. . Rishi Sunak was the first prime minister to attend the summit since 2007, and is the first Conservative prime minister to appear at the council.

This month, the most recent BIC meeting was hosted by UK Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove. No one from the Northern Ireland Assembly attended as there is an ongoing power-sharing dispute. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt joined the talks via video call, while the other leaders, including Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, attended in person.

What do they discuss?

The council agrees areas of work for which individual members take responsibility. Currently there are 12 work areas. Scotland is currently responsible for demography and is partly responsible for energy and social inclusion.

At the most recent summit, the topic of discussion was sustainable growth and regeneration. Delegates discussed the cost of living and energy crises, labor and housing shortages, climate change and the effects of Brexit, including the Northern Ireland protocol.

How often do they meet?

The council meets twice a year. Although there have been exceptions to this. More recently, there was a reunion in 2020 due to the pandemic. In total, there have been 38 summits since BIC’s formation in 1999.

Where does the council meet?

The council’s headquarters are in Edinburgh, but council meetings are often held in hotels, publicly owned buildings, and conference centers in member nations and dependencies. The most recent summit was held in Blackpool. He has stayed in Scotland five times since 2002.

The next council meeting is scheduled to be in Jersey.

Appointments from the most recent board meeting

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon on meeting Rishi Sunak at the British-Irish Council: “It was a cordial and constructive meeting. I think we both want to do everything we can to build a good, constructive working relationship.

“We have deep political disagreements. I think we can all take that as read. But we also have an obligation to work together in the interest of the people we serve. Of relationship. He says he is too, so hopefully we’ll see that translate from rhetoric to reality.”

Micheál Martin, Taoiseach, speaking at a press conference at the British-Irish Council on resolving Northern Ireland protocol issues: ‘I think the relationship, certainly between myself and the Prime Minister and both governments, has improved significantly very significant.
And I think that we both intend, with our colleagues in the European Union, to solve this problem in a harmonious way.

“And I think that the meeting of these two days has once again reinforced the importance of all of us working together on shared challenges and problems.

“So the need to really solve this problem is important because we also have other bigger problems; really big economic challenges coming our way, we have the war in Ukraine.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the Northern Ireland protocol resolution: “I think we all recognize that the protocol is having a real impact on the ground, on families, on businesses in Northern Ireland, threatening the place of Northern Ireland North in the UK and I want to resolve that.

“I am deeply committed to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. I want to see the institutions work again in Northern Ireland because that is what the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve. I discussed this with the taoiseach, we had a very positive meeting. And what I want to do is find a negotiated solution, preferably, and I’m pleased with the progress we’re making in these early days.”

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