The EESC October plenary session included a debate with Michel Barnier, European Union chief negotiator for Brexit, on 30 October. During the debate, Mr Barnier called for a close partnership between the EU and the UK after Brexit, bearing in mind that peace in Ireland must be a priority and that "the integrity of the single market is not negotiable".

Michel Barnier outlined his view of the status of the Brexit negotiations to EESC members and insisted that the European Commission was determined to agree on an orderly Brexit, as "the risk of Brexit happening without a ratified deal still exists". He also stressed that "Brexit is just a stage, not a final destination" and that the most important challenge is now to rebuild a new partnership between the EU and the UK, based on two pillars: economic exchange and cooperation in the area of security and defence.

The president of the EESC, Luca Jahier, opened the debate, underlining the important role that civil society representatives could play in a post-Brexit scenario. "It is crucial for the relationship built up over the last 44 years with British civil society organisations to be not only preserved but even strengthened; there is still a long way to go and it will be hard work, but the EESC will always be on your side", Mr Jahier said. (sma/dgf)