Michel Barnier was presented with European Movement Ireland’s European of the Year Award at an online award ceremony Thursday morning.
The award recognises individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to developing the connections and relationship between Ireland and Europe.
Head of Task Force for Relations with the UK, Mr Barnier said he was honoured to receive the award.
On Brexit negotiations and the EU-UK Trade deal that was agreed in December, he said: “My team and I were particularly attentive to the concerns voiced by all the different parties and communities of Ireland and Northern Ireland… We travelled several times to Ireland and Northern Ireland, we went to the border, we walked on the peace bridge in Derry/Londonderry."
Mr Barnier said that going forward he believes preserving EU unity was a top priority throughout Brexit negotiations.
“I continue to believe that we have to be both patriotic and European — patriote et européen — Irish and European, French and European. The two go together… That is why preserving EU unity was so important throughout the Brexit process.”
Mr Barnier said Brexit “did not trigger the end of the European Union” but rather strengthened its unity in building a Europe that protects and inspires, quoting the Irish proverb “Ní neart go cur le chéile. There is no strength without unity.”
The chair of the European Movement Ireland, Maurice Pratt, says while there are still remaining issues as a result of Brexit, “Ireland, as a proud EU member state with the closest relationship to the UK, has a role to play as a future facilitator in that process.”