On 10 April 1998 the UK and Irish governments signed the British-Irish Agreement following multi-party negotiations in Belfast. The British-Irish Council was established on 2 December 1999 when the British-Irish Agreement came into force. The Council includes the UK and Irish governments, the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the Isle of Man government, government of Jersey and government of Guernsey.
The British-Irish Council aims to ‘promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships amongst the people of these islands’. It is a unique forum for members to exchange information, discuss, consult and reach agreement on issues of mutual interest.
Summits take place twice each year and are a valuable forum to discuss issues including social policy, economic development and creative innovation. For example, at the most recent summit in Dublin in June 2015, the Council considered a paper from the BIC Misuse of Substances Work Sector on the misuse of alcohol. It agreed continuing action across member administrations to protect the health and well-being of the wider public, especially children, from alcohol misuse.
The London summit shows that the UK government sees the British-Irish Council as important in promoting positive, practical relationships across these islands. It will look at the work of the BIC Environment Work Sector and how each member administration protects our natural capital and resources including pollinators. Combining resources and knowledge across BIC member administrations will support valuable efficiency gains and avoid duplication. Each government is expected to commit to sharing technology and data exchange on natural capital. A workshop taking place in the next few months will continue this work.
This agreement builds on other joint initiatives including
shared Ireland-UK research vessel activity
a cross-member early warning system for invasive non-native species