"Brexit" - The Consequences for Cross-Border & All-Island Cooperation


(The following is the presentation made by Dr Anthony Soares to the Fianna Fail conference on ‘Britain and EU membership referendum – Cross-border Implications’ 16 July 2015)

“I would like to begin by thanking Deputy Brendan Smith for inviting me to take part in this panel and in this vitally important discussion for the prosperity of both parts of the island of Ireland, these islands, and for Europe. My objective here is to outline some of the general consequences of a possible Brexit on cooperation on the island of Ireland.

Currently, at the core of our formal structures for North-South cooperation is the North South Ministerial Council. One of the Council’s central functions, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement, is “to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework”.

Since its creation in 1999, the Centre for Cross Border Studies has been wholly devoted to cross-border and all-island cooperation, contributing to the increased social, economic and territorial cohesion of the island of Ireland. We do this through three main areas of activity: addressing information gaps and other barriers that constrain cross-border mobility and cooperation; promoting and improving the quality of cross-border cooperation; and improving people’s capacity to engage in cross-border cooperation.

All of our work takes place under a policy framework made up of two central pillars: (1) the first, particular to the context of the island of Ireland, is the commitment to cross-border and all-island cooperation enshrined in Strand II of the Good Friday Agreement. (2) The second pillar is the EU’s Cohesion Policy, which aims at strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities between the levels of development of regions and countries of the European Union.

These twin pillars that directly inform our own approach to cross-border cooperation and provide the general context for cooperation on this island for most actors are in turn largely supported (including financially) or informed by the European Union. The majority of cross-border projects are funded by the EU’s European Territorial Cooperation programmes, which on this island includes not only INTERREG but also the PEACE programme.

The implementation of European Territorial Cooperation programmes such as PEACE and INTERREG on the island of Ireland have, perhaps, enabled a different geographical imaginary that – like these programmes’ eligible areas – doesn’t limit itself to jurisdictional boundaries and allows for collaborative actions with the possibility of a cohesive result. The EU has provided governments, institutions and organisations on both sides of the border with a territorial vision that offers a wider space for cooperation. However, it could be argued that we have not always exploited to the full the potential for cross-border cooperation offered by the EU.

Turning to the possibility of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, to say nothing of the ramifications for the Good Friday Agreement, a Brexit would immediately remove one of the central pillars around which cross-border and all-island cooperation operates on the island of Ireland. Without EU Cohesion policy and its aim of reducing regional disparities, that goal would be entirely reliant on political support and funding from Dublin and, more particularly, Belfast and London.

This is not to say that the changing status of our border which, with a Brexit, would become an external EU border, and that without the overarching policy currently provided by the EU this would necessarily spell the end of cross-border cooperation. However, the likelihood would be that we would revert to a situation in which such cooperation would become piecemeal in nature, and dependent on the will of individual organisations to engage in such cooperation. In such a context, more ambitious and strategic forms of cooperation, such as the creation of a Border Development Corridor, would be much more challenging (if not impossible) to realise.

Of course, there are other European nations that are not members of the EU, but who still engage in cross-border cooperation with their EU neighbours. Norway, which is a member of the European Economic Area, the Schengen Area, and of EFTA is one such example. However, leaving aside for now the fact that the UK is not in Schengen or EFTA, the complex structures and the complications that Norway has to face when looking to cooperate with EU neighbours should be noted if we are to consider a post-Brexit context for cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland. A 2013 report to the Norwegian Parliament underlines the challenges Norway faces as it has to transpose into domestic law EU legislation in which it has very little input if it wants to cooperate with its EU neighbours. What would be the challenges faced by a devolved administration in Northern Ireland if it wished to pursue cross-border or all-island cooperation with Ireland? How willing would the UK government be to facilitate such cooperation if it were to be asked to shape domestic law in line with EU legislation?

Switzerland is another case in point. It is also a member of Schengen and EFTA, although it is not a member of the EEA. In order to cooperate with the EU Switzerland has signed a significant number of agreements, which have to be frequently revisited in order to accompany the evolution of EU law. However, this has not prevented it from engaging in cross-border cooperation with its EU neighbours although, again, that cooperation is complicated by the need to keep within both domestic and EU legislation. Moreover, when a neighbouring country may want to pursue the development of a cross-border project that is in line with EU Cohesion policy and would address its own needs, this will not be possible if it doesn’t fit in with Swiss priorities or when the authorities there are not willing to provide the necessary matching funding.

We now have an unmissable opportunity in the run-up to the UK referendum on EU membership to renew and revitalise our commitment to cross-border cooperation and to the important policy context provided for it by membership of the European Union and Strand II of the Good Friday Agreement. Such a commitment should allow us to more fully exploit not only the funding made available by the EU for cross-border cooperation, but also the various instruments it puts at our disposal. It should also reconfirm our belief in the structures set up by the Good Friday Agreement, but in a way that doesn’t allow them to become political blockages to the energy and aspirations that exist for cross-border cooperation beyond those formal structures. They need to become more active enablers rather than controllers of cross-border and all-island cooperation. By doing this and winning the argument for the UK’s continued membership of the EU, we will be able to fulfil our ambitions in relation to the socio-economic development of the island of Ireland.”

CCBS announces three major themes for its upcoming work

Alongside its ongoing work, CCBS’s research and policy team will focus on three main themes over the next twelve to eighteen months: the UK’s referendum on EU membership; wellbeing; and a civic vision for North-South and East-West cooperation.

Whatever the result of the forthcoming UK referendum on membership of the EU, it will have enduring implications for everyone living on the island of Ireland. But while attention has been focused on “In” or “Out”, the negotiations that will precede the Referendum will in themselves have serious consequences in many ways that are as yet not entirely predictable, and will affect those involved in cross-border cooperation. Understanding and communicating these implications will form a central part of our work in the run-up to the referendum, and CCBS will be engaging with other organisations on the island of Ireland, the UK and in Europe to ensure that the debate over the UK’s membership of the EU is informed by evidence.

Having responded to preliminary work undertaken by the Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland, where CCBS stressed the need to be informed of concerns over wellbeing in other parts of these islands, the recently launched Towards a Wellbeing Framework notes how “The Centre for Cross Border Studies could have a role here in supporting dissemination of lessons across the island of Ireland. It is important that the Wellbeing Framework is an outward-looking and evidence-informed mechanism for reform”. CCBS will therefore be continuing to work on this important issue, analysing what is being developed regarding wellbeing in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, and disseminating best practice.

The third major strand of our work will be to facilitate a grass-roots vision for cross-border cooperation that encompasses both a North-South and an East-West dimension. This work forms part of a project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, entitled Towards a New Common Chapter, and will involve ten community organisations from both sides of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

For more information on any of these strands, contact Anthony Soares at a.soares@qub.ac.uk

Centre for Cross Border Studies 2016 annual conference

SAVE THESE DATES: Thursday 18th and Friday 19th February 2016

The Centre for Cross Border Studies invites you to its 2016 annual conference

Bordering Between Unions: What Does the UK Referendum on Europe Mean for Us?

Whatever the result of the forthcoming UK referendum on membership of the EU, it will have enduring implications for everyone living on the island of Ireland. But while attention has been focused on “In” or “Out”, the negotiations that will precede the Referendum will in themselves have serious consequences in many ways that are as yet not entirely predictable. The UK Government has the support of the business sector and indeed, the governments of other member states including Ireland, for reform of the EU.  However, while only some people living on this island will have a vote in the Referendum, it is important that everyone has a voice in the debate about what reform of the EU will look like.

What will reform – if achieved – mean for people in the UK, Ireland and across the EU; citizens and ‘migrants’? Will the protections of ‘Social Europe’ be eroded or erased? What commitment will there be to ‘Inclusive Growth’ in the drive to give employers more ‘flexibility’? Will there be new limits to the free movement of EU citizens? If restrictions on the free movement and other rights of EU citizens are accepted, what fates can be expected for those fleeing conflicts and hoping to find asylum and safe haven in the EU? In a reformed EU, which EU Directives and Regulations will the UK be obliged to implement and which may it be allowed to opt out of? Will they seek derogations from EU Directives on environmental standards that may be deemed to interfere with competitiveness or free movement of goods or capital?

Could the UK find itself outside the EU by default – irrespective of the Referendum decision? What consequences would ensue from withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights? If the UK was no longer a signatory to the ECHR, it would not be eligible for membership of the Council of Europe; and in turn of the EU. But even if the intention is to continue as a signatory of the ECHR, the repeal of the Human Rights Act would be a breach of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – an international treaty with the Irish state. The Human Rights Act (HRA) is also embedded in the devolution agreements for Scotland and Wales – the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act. Will the UK Government seek the consent of the devolved administrations for repeal or amendment of the HRA? Will it seek the consent of the Irish Government?  Will it seek the consent of the people of Ireland North and South who voted in an all-island referendum to endorse the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement?

And if the majority of the people in the UK do vote to leave the EU – irrespective of whether there is a majority among the voters of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to remain – how will that change social and economic relationships within and between these islands? How will the myriad of complex legal and administrative arrangements be disentangled and what will be the costs or benefits for Ireland, North and South?

For further information contact Ruth Taillon – r.taillon@qub.ac.uk


Prof Paulo de Medeiros to present at John Hewitt International Summer School

Don’t miss the CCBS-sponsored talk at this year’s John Hewitt International Summer School!

At a crucial time for Europe and European values, CCBS is proud to have Professor Paulo de Medeiros deliver on the 30th of July its sponsored talk at the 2015 John Hewitt International Summer School. Entitled “Mare Mortis: The Shipwrecking of Europe on the Rocks of Difference”, Professor de Medeiros’s talk will explore the urgent need for Europe to re-consider its identity, making this an unmissable opportunity to hear and interact with an internationally acclaimed scholar and thinker concerned with where Europe is heading.

Describing his talk, Professor de Medeiros offered the following outline:
“Speaking in Turin in 1990, Jacques Derrida fundamentally questioned European identity at the same time that he dared challenge us all to imagine a different, a better, Europe, in The Other Heading: Memories, Responses, and Responsibilities. Twenty-five years later, and in the face of the horrific deaths suffered by thousands of would-be migrants to Europe, that challenge has not even begun to be addressed. How could the Mediterranean, once the proud common space of diverse cultures and peoples, the Mare Nostrum, turn into a veritable cemetery, a sea of death? In its current apathy, its denial in the face of utmost tragedy and its wimpish attempts at preserving a modicum of credibility, the European Union runs the risk of losing itself, forgetting its common history of suffering and striving for justice and equality, in its morbid fears of those it deems “different” from itself. It is urgent that we consider again Derrida’s challenge to imagine another heading for Europe if, with Habermas, we still want to think of Europe as an unfinished project, our only hope for a common future.”

To book your place on-line, visit the Market Place Theatre site

For tickets for any of the other events at the John Hewitt International Summer School,

‘Ireland 2016: Centenary Programme’ Provides Unique Opportunity to Pursue Wide-Ranging North/South Commemorative Engagement


On 20 May 2015 the Centre for Cross Border Studies attended a briefing, hosted in conjunction with Queen’s University’s School of History and Anthropology, the Community Relations Council and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the Government of Ireland’s plans for commemorations in 2016. At this event programme Director John Concannon unveiled an impressive range of events linked to the ‘Ireland 2016: Centenary Programme’.

The Programme is underpinned by five overlapping themes: ‘Remembering’, ‘Reconciling’, ‘Presenting’, ‘Imagining’, and ‘Celebrating’. Moreover, the delivery of the programme encompasses seven wide-ranging strands, including: ‘state ceremonial’, ‘historical reflection’, ‘the living language’, ‘youth and imagination’, ‘cultural expression’, ‘community participation’ and ‘global and diaspora’.

Concannon highlighted that the programme is the product of extensive consultation and engagement with a wide variety of stakeholders, ranging from Government Departments to local authorities, community groups and numerous constituent parts of civil society.

The programme is committed to engage with the different traditions on the island of Ireland and to recognise the different competing narratives. CCBS welcomes this briefing as representing, what Concannon referred to as, “an open invitation” for organisations and individuals to participate and contribute across both sides of the Irish border.

Concannon also stressed that, given the contested nature of the events being commemorated in 2016, namely the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, the programme aims to create a space for debate, discussion and dissenting opinions. CCBS recognises the value of this programme in providing a unique opportunity to connect peoples, cultures and heritage across both sides of the border while promoting the need for reconciliation and sharing resources.

Given that the Northern Ireland Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ strategy recognises the significance of the Irish ‘decade of centenaries’ (running from 1912 to 1923) CCBS views this as an opportunity for the Northern Ireland Executive to facilitate and promote greater engagement with the programme. Only through wide-ranging North/South engagement will the programme truly fulfil its objective to be “measured and reflective and informed by a full acknowledgement of the complexity of historical events and their legacy, of the multiple readings of history, and of the multiple identities and traditions which are part of the Irish historical experience.”

European Rural Parliament 2015 Northern Ireland Workshops

Rural NI: Your Place Your Voice
European Rural Parliament 2015 Northern Ireland Workshops


Rural Community Network is partnering with 29 other organisations across the EU to feed into the 2015 European Rural Parliament scheduled to take place at the start of November in Scharding in Austria.

The overall purpose of the EU Rural Parliament is to:

1. To strengthen the voice of the rural communities of Europe, and to ensure that the interests and well-being of these communities are strongly reflected in national and European policies.

2. To promote self-help, common understanding, solidarity, exchange of good practice and cooperation among rural communities throughout Europe.

The purpose of the workshops in NI is to inform discussion at a NI rural parliament event which we plan to hold in October. This, in turn, will inform deliberations and delegates who will attend the EU Rural Parliament in November in Austria.
Workshops will take place in June as follows:

08.06.15 Houston’s Mill, Broughshane, Co Antrim 7.00-9.30pm
09.06.15 The Courthouse, Markethill, Co Armagh 7.00-9.30pm
16.06.15 Benedy Community Centre, Dungiven, Co Derry 7.00-9.30pm
17.06.15 Fermanagh House, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh 7.30-10.00pm
18.06.15 RCN offices, 38a Oldtown St, Cookstown 7.00-9.30pm
30.06.15 The Lodge Castlewellan Co Down 7.00-9.30pm

The workshops will be interactive and will seek the opinions of a wide range of rural dweller. Come along and ensure your voice is heard on the issues that matter to you.

To register your attendance contact Teresa on 028 8676 6670 or email teresa@ruralcommunitynetwork.org

To find out more about the European Rural Parliament 2015 contact Aidan on 028 8676 6670 or email aidan@ruralcommunitynetwork.org


CCBS presents to Oireachtas Joint Committee

Yesterday (12th of May 2015) the Centre for Cross Border Studies contributed to a session of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, which was dedicated to the theme of the All Island Economy.

Briefing session at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Briefing session at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

In his presentation to the Committee, Anthony Soares, CCBS’s Research and Policy Manager, noted the need for an integrated approach to the development of an All Island Economy, and that economic development should be seen as part of a wider Wellbeing Framework, with the public and community voluntary sectors regarded as economic drivers or enablers rather than simply as sources of expenditure. He also stressed that an effective All Island Economy should not only be of benefit to citizens in both jurisdiction, but that it should also address existing geographical disparities in terms of socio-economic indicators and general wellbeing, and that the establishment of a Border Development Corridor is an essential cornerstone in North-South economic cooperation.

The presentation underlined the importance of strategic leadership at all levels in order to identify and exploit the benefits of cross-border and all-island cooperation in the development of relevant policies in both jurisdictions, but also expressed concerns at the threat to such cooperation – and to an All Island Economy – represented by the UK’s possible exit from the EU.

Also taking part in this session were InterTradeIreland, Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency, Mr Padriac White (Chairman of the Border Development Corridor Steering Committee), and Mr Michael Burke (independent economist).

Download a pdf copy of CCBS’s presentation and full written submission.



The Future of Cross-Border Cooperation in a rural context


The Rural Community Network’s latest edition of Network News was dedicated to considering what the future may look like for rural communities, with several contributors from a range of sectors offering predictions for trends in their particular areas of expertise. Anthony Soares, CCBS’s Research & Policy Manager, contributed a piece entitled “Bordering on the Future”, in which he considers the challenges and opportunities for rural communities to engage in cross-border cooperation. Among the opportunities he identifies is the possibility for rural communities to identify areas for cross-border cooperation to be included in local authorities’ community development strategies and Peace Action Plans. However, he also notes that such opportunities can only be realised with the full commitment of those with executive responsibilities in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

Click here for further information.

CCBS Supports the Need for a Statutory Duty for Rural Proofing

The Centre for Cross Border Studies has today published its response to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s public consultation on policy proposals for a Rural Proofing Bill.

Rural proofing has been a commitment of the Northern Ireland Executive since 2002 and is part of the existing policy-making process across government in Northern Ireland. It is designed to ensure fair and equitable treatment of rural communities so that policies do not have a detrimental impact on rural dwellers. The purpose of the Rural Proofing Bill is to strengthen the existing policy requirements around rural proofing. CCBS is supportive of the need for rural proofing to be placed on a statutory footing.

Evidence suggests that the present non-legislative approach to rural proofing has not been as effective as first envisaged. Therefore, CCBS is confident that legislating for the process will strengthen and underpin the Executive’s commitment. It will also serve to improve the effectiveness of this process and ensure that the needs of rural communities are appropriately considered in the development of policy and delivery of public services.

CCBS welcomes any legislation which helps to address the needs of rural communities, particularly those rural populations within the border region, who face unique challenges as regards to access to public services, infrastructure provision, rural and urban connectivity, business growth and unemployment. Likewise, people living close to each other but across the border have also been affected by distinctive policy asymmetries, including with regards to rural proofing. Indeed, to date the approach taken to rural proofing in the Republic of Ireland has been more robust than that in Northern Ireland. From the publication in 1999 of the Republic of Ireland’s White Paper on Rural Development, its broad principles and policy commitments have been represented in two plans; the ‘National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013’, and the ‘CAP Rural Development Programme 2007-2013’.

While CCBS supports the need for this statutory duty to be placed on all government departments, local councils and Executive non-departmental public bodies, we also maintain that the statutory duty should explicitly require the relevant duty holders to mitigate any adverse impacts where they are identified when developing new or existing policies. Our concern is that the statutory duty, currently worded as “to consider the needs of people living in rural areas” risks the prospect of having the needs of rural communities considered but without compelling any action to mitigate adverse impacts identified.

Lastly, we are confident that the success of the proposed legislative approach to rural proofing hinges upon creating a statutory role for DARD to promote and encourage other bodies to engage with rural proofing. CCBS endorses the view that DARD must play a role in ensuring training is provided to build the capacity of policy makers in other departments, local councils and NDPBs to ensure effective implementation, as well as the training of rural stakeholders to ensure effective scrutiny of rural proofing practices.

Click here to access the full consultation response.

CCBS Toolkits for Budgeting and Evaluation of Cross-Border Projects

The Centre for Cross Border Studies has launched two new toolkits designed for cross-border project managers.

The Toolkit for Budgeting of Cross-Border Projects and its companion publication, the Toolkit for Evaluation of Cross-Border Projects are both part of a strategic package of linked training, animation, mentoring and research activities to support public service deliverers, particularly local authorities. They are both products of the INNICO-2 project (the Ireland Northern Ireland Cross-Border Cooperation Observatory), which was funded under the EU INTERREG IVA Programme. The Aims and Objectives of the INICCO-2 project coincide with the overall objective of the INTERREG Programme to support strategic cooperation for a more prosperous and sustainable region, contributing to the development of a dynamic economy and improving access to services and the quality of life for those living in the Irish cross-border region. The aims of INICCO-2 are:

  • To increase and strengthen cross-border cooperation for a more prosperous and sustainable border region and more efficient delivery of public services through addressing information and skills gaps among actors in the region.
  • To contribute to the increased social, economic and territorial cohesion of the Irish CrossBorder region through:
    • promoting and improving the quality of Cross-Border Cooperation between public bodies, and between public bodies, business and civil society; and
    • improving the capacity of people involved in social and economic development of the Irish Cross-Border region to better align their objectives and outcomes with the priorities of EU Cohesion Policy and Europe 2020.
The Toolkit for Budgeting of Cross-Border Projects and the Toolkit for Evaluation of Cross-Border Projects are intended primarily to support funded projects – in private, public or community/voluntary sectors or cross-sectoral partnerships – which are challenged by the requirements of delivering cross-border (or transnational) projects.


These toolkits have been designed to complement and be used alongside the Impact Assessment Toolkit for Cross-Border Cooperation. The Evaluation and Budget toolkits also complement the InterCultural/Cross-Border Project Management Toolkit published in 2014 in collaboration with the Centre’s partners in the Transfrontier Euro-Institute Network (TEIN), funded through the EU Leonardo Programme. These four innovative Toolkits together comprise a portfolio of tools to support cross-border cooperation throughout the entire cross-border project life-cycle. We are confident that they will be of benefit to cross-border projects on the island of Ireland, and indeed are easily transferable to other cross-border and transnational projects elsewhere. Through this transfer and adaptation we will contribute to the professionalization of actors, a better quality of projects, more positive attitudes towards transfrontier collaboration and improved working and living conditions for citizens in border areas across the EU and beyond. Like their companion toolkits, both the Toolkit for Budgeting of Cross-Border Projects and the Toolkit for Evaluation of Cross-Border Projects are user-friendly, practical resources that will guide both experienced and less experienced cross-border project promoters through the steps of:
  • preparing a budget for their project and setting up appropriate financial monitoring and reporting mechanisms; and
  • planning for the project evaluation – including managing both self-evaluations and external evaluations.

Download The Toolkit for Budgeting of Cross-Border Projects (PDF 1.4MB).

Download The Toolkit for Evaluation of Cross-Border Projects (PDF 3.1MB).




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