Brexit was and is a watershed for us all. That applies particularly to the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland due to the division of the island of Ireland. It was only in 1998 that the Good Friday Agreement brought peace after more than 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. This peace, the fact that hostilities have ceased and both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland can once again live alongside one another in a spirit of good neighbourliness must not be jeopardised under any circumstances. Yet precisely this is at stake as a result of Brexit and its consequences for trade, freedom of movement and other issues. And that is why all of us – in the EU member states and in the United Kingdom – have a responsibility to protect and to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol. For, by enabling a Northern Irish carpenter or an Irish farmer to sell their products in Dublin and Belfast respectively without customs and border controls, it prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland and thus also the reopening of the old wounds.
Although the United Kingdom is no longer in the EU, we continue to work closely together on a basis of trust – bilaterally and within NATO, the OSCE, the United Nations and the G7. With a formalised strategic dialogue between our two countries we want to further intensify the close UK-German exchange which has accompanied me in my role as Foreign Minister since almost the very first day. We also want to work together to place very practical achievements of the EU, such as the youth exchange programmes between our two countries and worker mobility, on a new footing in our relations with the United Kingdom.
In the case of both Ireland and the United Kingdom it is true to say that we are close partners and friends. We are pulling firmly in the same direction with our concrete and long-term support for Ukraine in response to Russia’s campaign of destruction, we are pooling our resources to provide winter relief, we are fighting the global consequences of the war which Putin has deliberately caused, we are synchronising our sanctions and working together to close loopholes. We are demonstrating to Putin the strength that is found in shared values and in our determination to defend them also in turbulent times.