The EFTA/EU Delegation, headed by its chairperson, Council of States president Karin Keller-Sutter (FDP, SG), travelled to London and Dublin for bilateral talks between 16 and 19 October. The talks focused on the timetable, procedure and substance of the UK’s ongoing negotiations to leave the EU (Brexit), with particular consideration given to the Irish border issue.

​During the official talks between the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, and the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, the members of the EFTA/EU Delegation discussed the state of the Brexit negotiations, and the main points of the legally binding withdrawal agreement and of the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The Parliamentary Process of Withdrawal from the EU was also addressed, particularly the ratification of the withdrawal agreement by the UK parliament.

The delegation also met with members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and its chair Dr Andrew Murrison MP to discuss questions relating to the Irish border, in particular the form the so-called backstop may take, a customs arrangement to prevent the reintroduction of border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Delegation members also met Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and members of the British-Swiss All-Party Parliamentary Group for discussions on the nature of the UK’s future trade relations with the EU and Switzerland. On Wednesday afternoon the members of the EFTA/EU Delegation had the opportunity to attend Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons, during which Theresa May is held to account on the work of her government.

In the second half of the week, official meetings took place in Dublin with the Chairperson of the Dáil, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, and the Chairperson of the Seanad, Denis O’Donovan. These talks covered various aspects of the UK’s ongoing EU withdrawal negotiations from an Irish perspective. Particular attention was given to the Irish border issue. During the official visit to the Irish parliament, talks were also held with members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on European Union Affairs and with members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence.

The EFTA/EU delegation members rounded off their two-day stay in the Republic of Ireland with a visit to the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, where they talked to members of the public and business representatives, in particular about the legal form to be taken by the above-mentioned backstop.

The Swiss delegation comprised its chair, Council of States president Karin Keller-Sutter (FDP, SG); its vice chair, National Council member Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL); National Council members Kathy Riklin (CVP, ZH), Thomas Aeschi (SVP, ZG), Hans-Peter Portmann (FDP, ZH) and Jean-François Rime (SVP, FR); and Council of States members Hannes Germann (SVP, SH) and Konrad Graber (CVP, LU). Council of States member Filippo Lombardi (CVP, TI) also attended in his capacity as chair of the Council of States Foreign Affairs Committee.