Varadkar joins O’Reilly in call for Brexit report on North to be published

EU Ombudsman O’Reilly believes it is in the public interest for documents to be released

EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said the report covered cross-Border topics inlcuding trade, animal health, tourism, the environment and cross-Border fraud.

EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said the report covered cross-Border topics inlcuding trade, animal health, tourism, the environment and cross-Border fraud.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has joined European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly in calling for the publication of a key Brexit negotiating document setting out areas of North-South co-operation.

The “mapping document” was produced by the UK for the early phase of the Northern Ireland strand of the talks to set out the extent of North South co-operation with an EU dimension.

Officials have spoken of up to 150 programmes which need to be protected in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

These range widely from cross-border hospital arrangements to environmental protection and even the transhipping of eels from Lough Neagh.

Repeated fruitless requests for its publication have been made by this newspaper and politicians since the beginning of the year.

The WA refers to the mapping document, and the need to safeguard these programmes, but does not enumerate the programmes in the way it does with human rights provisions that must also be protected.

Ms O’Reilly in her ruling on a complaint acknowledged the legitimacy of secrecy while talks continued but “strongly urges the Commission”to publish, once the discussions are over.

She said when the elected representatives of EU and UK citizens voted on the outcome of these negotiations, this document was “essential to the making of informed decisions in the public interest”.

The Commission declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for the UK government said: “Once negotiations have concluded, we will publish the North-South mapping exercise in coordination with the European Commission. We expect to do so in the coming weeks.”

Mr Varadkar said publication of the document would be done “jointly by the EU and the UK and what that indicates to is everyone is the extent to which so much North-South co-operation is underpinned by European law.

“It’s not just about trade and customs and regulation, and even things like recognising qualifications for cross border work.”

He added: “I would very much like to see it published without delay. But it’s not our call. It is a EU-UK document and it has to be done in that way.”

Concern has been expressed at the non-publication, with some observers suggesting it reflected a half-heartedness at best by the UK to its commitment to safeguarding the programmes.

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