The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger or more settled, as complex or as important, as it is today.
Our citizens, uniquely linked by geography and history, are connected today as never before through business, politics, culture and sport, travel and technology, and of course family ties.
These vital human links are nowhere more evident than in the presence of a large, confident, valued and integrated Irish community in Britain and in the increasing number of British people who now live and work in Ireland.
Our two economies benefit from a flow of people, goods, investment, capital and ideas on a scale that is rare even in this era of global economic integration.
We are partners in the European Union and firm supporters of the Single Market.
We enjoy a uniquely close political relationship, grounded in the progress which we have led together over the last 25 years in the peace process in Northern Ireland. We stand together in continuing and unqualified support for the Agreements and institutions to which the process led.
2011 was a momentous year, with the State Visit of Her Majesty The Queen to Ireland serving as a symbol of a modern, deep and friendly relationship. We look forward to the prospect of a return State Visit by the President of Ireland at an appropriate time.
This year brings another symbolic representation of our enduring relationship, with the Olympic Torch travelling to Ireland in June, to shine a light on the rich heritage and sporting ambitions of our athletes as they prepare to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
2012 also marks the beginning of a decade of centenary commemorations of events that helped shape our political destinies. This series of commemorations offers us an opportunity to explore and reflect on key episodes of our past. We will do so in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.
But we want to ensure that this is a decade not only of remembering but also of looking forward; a decade of renewed and strengthened co-operation between our two countries.
To that end we have initiated an intensive programme of work aimed at reinforcing the British Irish relationship over the next decade.
Accelerating recovery, growth and job creation
The UK and Ireland both have open and globalised economies and we share a commitment to boosting growth as the cornerstone of economic recovery and job creation.
We recognise that our economies have different strengths and that sometimes we will compete with each other. We each benefit greatly from the flow of goods and services between our economies, amounting to 1 billion euros every week and we want to see this expand and develop further.
We are committed to boosting competitiveness and productivity and to supporting innovation, research and development and we plan to intensify our cooperation to help to make this happen.
Collaboration between our third-level colleges, research institutes and business sectors increases the benefits of investment in research and development. Acknowledging Dublin’s designation as European City of Science in 2012, we plan to examine the potential for increased collaboration in research.
We share common long term challenges to our prosperity, including the need for secure, competitive and sustainable sources of energy.
We welcome the progress achieved on the all-Ireland Single Electricity Market and on the new East-West interconnector which is due to be commissioned later this year. Our two administrations will work to develop further interconnectivity North-South and East-West, to facilitate security of supply and enhanced competition.
We recognise the significant untapped potential in renewable energy and will seek to promote mutually beneficial investment and deployment in this area. We will also seek to collaborate in the development and commercialisation of related technologies.
With growing uncertainty in global food and commodity markets we believe there is considerable potential for closer cooperation in the agri-food sector.
We will work closely to identify and pursue opportunities for collaboration in these and other areas (such as professional and financial services and the ‘creative’ sectors such as media, music, film, fashion and ICT).
Shared strengths in areas such as the construction sector offer potential for global-scale partnerships between British and Irish firms.
We will prepare a joint evaluation of the depth of economic relations between the UK and Ireland and of the opportunities for closer collaboration in support of growth to our mutual benefit.
We remain firmly committed to preserving and protecting the Common Travel Area, which allows ease of travel for our people. We will continue to work together on immigration issues, and to combat potential vulnerabilities from terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime.
Northern Ireland: from peace to reconciliation and prosperity
We continue to work in the closest cooperation on Northern Ireland issues. We reaffirm our support for the full implementation of the Agreements and for the ongoing work and development of the devolved and other institutions.
Our joint efforts in support of these objectives must and will continue. Above all, we stand together with the people of Northern Ireland and its Executive in our determination to make sure that society there is never again blighted by violent conflict. But our aim, along with the Executive, is more than that: it is a society that is not only peaceful, but stable, prosperous, and based on a genuinely shared future for all.
We support the Northern Ireland Executive in its objective of rebalancing the economy, and we have asked our embassies in emerging markets to support its efforts in promoting jobs, growth and investment in Northern Ireland.
We support and encourage intensified economic cooperation on the island of Ireland that delivers benefits in stronger growth and better public services. The all-Ireland Single Electricity Market is an excellent example of what can be achieved.
We welcome the progress being made in the areas of culture and tourism. The centenary of the Titanic this year, and initiatives such at the designation of Derry/Londonderry as the 2013 City of Culture, are opportunities to attract international attention and new visitors.
We will maintain our efforts to promote reconciliation, underpinning the Executive’s objective of creating a cohesive, shared and integrated society in Northern Ireland. We will work together, with the Executive, to encourage the marking of forthcoming centenaries in a spirit of mutual respect, and the promotion of understanding.
We acknowledge the excellent security cooperation between our two governments, and will continue to stand fast together in the face of those who resort to violence, which is abhorred by our people and has no place in our societies.
Working together in Europe
Our two countries have shared common membership of the European Union for almost forty years. As partners in the European Union we are firm supporters of the Single Market and will work together to encourage an outward-facing EU, which promotes growth and jobs.
We share a desire to reduce the burden of regulation, particularly on small and medium enterprises, and believe that the Single Market should in particular take advantage of digital opportunities, reflecting the growing importance of online commerce and trade, opening up services markets and establishing a genuine, efficient and effective internal market in energy.
We also share a commitment to build a robust, dynamic and competitive financial services sector across the EU that provides vital support to citizens and businesses and creates sustainable employment.
We both look forward to Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013 and we will work closely across the range of EU dossiers.
We will continue to consult each other on key EU policy issues.
Addressing global challenges
We remain committed to effective multilateralism and to the UN in particular.
We share a commitment to tackle the challenge of climate change and will cooperate on climate change issues both within the EU, including in the context of the Irish Presidency, and in the context of wider international negotiations.
We will continue to co-ordinate closely during Ireland’s period of Chairmanship in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe during 2012.
We are strong supporters of international aid and will work together to promote a more equitable international society. DFID and Irish Aid work together in Africa and elsewhere in their efforts to combat hunger and poverty. We are strongly committed to reaching our shared goal of 0.7% GNI on ODA and will also work together on reform of the international development system. We will strengthen our common efforts to achieve the UN Millenium Development Goals and to end the scourge of global hunger and poor nutrition.
We intend that this Joint Statement will be the starting point for realising the potential over the next decade of even stronger relations for current and future generations living on these islands.
We have asked our respective Secretary General/Cabinet Secretary to take forward the work necessary to give effect to this new phase of our relationship.
We have agreed that there will be regular meetings at Secretary General/Permanent Secretary level, working with the relevant lead Departments, and through formal exchanges of civil servants.
We agree that the scope to utilise our official agencies, including the North-South bodies and the new BIC Standing Secretariat, and private sector organisations and networks to contribute to this work, should be fully explored.
We will explore the potential for more exchanges/secondments of officials between our administrations.
We are committed to meeting together at Annual Summits to review and oversee progress in the areas outlined in this statement.