Press release

British-Irish Council Summit: Focus on EU exit and 'Early Years' policy

The British-Irish Council held its 28th summit in Cardiff today and focused on the UK's exit from the EU and the Council's Early Years policy.


Hosted by the Welsh government, the BIC summit’s two formal sessions focused on the UK’s exit from the EU and the work of the council on Early Years policy.

The meeting was an important opportunity to discuss developments and reflect on the perspectives and priorities of all participants since the last British-Irish Council summit in July 2016.

There was specific focus during the EU exit roundtable session on agriculture, agri-food and fisheries, trade, and implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

UK government ministers also emphasised their continued commitment to work closely with all 7 member administrations on the UK’s exit from the EU, using existing structures of bilateral and multilateral engagement.

Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, said:

The British-Irish Council summit is an important forum as we prepare to leave the European Union. The meeting allows us to maintain and strengthen relations between our governments and ensure we are all in the best position to face challenges and find new opportunities.

It’s important to remember the UK is leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe. We want the best possible relationship with the EU as a whole.

The 8 council members will discuss issues including Brexit and provide the best opportunities for our young people as part of Early Years strategy. I look forward to some positive and constructive talks on both topics.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, said:

At July’s BIC meeting we established an important commitment to maintain intensive and open dialogue and today’s sessions reflected the kind of mature cooperation that close friends and partners enjoy. There was a strong collective will to continue to work together in order to achieve the best outcomes for the people we represent.

The UK wants the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, especially with Ireland – our nearest neighbour and the only EU member with which we share a land border. So as we forge a new relationship between the UK and Europe we must also maintain and strengthen the bonds within these islands. The BIC will continue to make a vital contribution to that effort and underlines our commitment to the structures set out in the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

Minister for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker, said:

As we begin the work of leaving the European Union, forums such as the British-Irish Council are an important way of maintaining close cooperation and open dialogue between our governments.

This includes maintaining our special and friendly relationship with Ireland which has gone from strength to strength over many years. And we will continue to build on this strong relationship as we make a success of Brexit and maximise the opportunities for both our countries.

A second session at the council addressed the early years policies of the 8 administrations and welcomed the latest sector report highlighting progress since the 2012 summit. All present acknowledged the critical importance of investment in early years provision in creating strong foundations for children, families and societies to thrive.


The meeting was hosted by the Welsh government, and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones AM welcomed delegation heads. In addition to the UK government ministerial team, the following representatives attended:

  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD led the Irish Government delegation
  • First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP led the Scottish Government delegation
  • First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA represented the Northern Ireland Executive
  • Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK led the Isle of Man Government delegation
  • Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst led the Government of Jersey delegation
  • Chief Minister Deputy Gavin St Pier led the Government of Guernsey delegation

Read the full communique.


The British-Irish Council is a forum for discussion. It was established by the Belfast Agreement to promote positive, practical relationships among the people of the islands; and to provide a forum for consultation and co-operation.

Published 25 November 2016