The EU draft guidelines on the forthcoming EU-UK negotiations make it clear that the EU is open to finding ‘flexible and imaginative solutions’ which reflect the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.
The potential threat that Brexit represents to rights and equalities, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the border and the economy in Northern Ireland have been well documented. In trade, education, work, travel and beyond the impacts are becoming clear. It is also clear that threats to rights and equalities do not sit in isolation but also represent distinct threats to business, trade and cross border movement and vice versa. The Human Rights Consortium, in partnership NICVA and with sponsorship from Unison, hosted a one day conference to bring various civil society sectors concerned about Brexit together to chart the overlap and intersectionality of those threats and collectively discuss workable solutions that will protect all the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.
CCBS Director Ruth Taillon was on the first panel focusing on Cross Cutting Issues. Ms Taillon contextualised her discussion in examining what ‘no return to the borders of the past’ means in practice. She focused on the practical issues involved in policing a border which currently has an estimated 23,000 commuters crossing it on a daily basis (and that figure does not include people crossing the border for non-work purposes). She also discussed the limitations of the common travel area, which is not a legal framework and does not create rights for people moving between Ireland and the UK. Both the UK and Irish governments would have to support border communities and additional funding allocations should be derived from the UK’s current contribution to the EU budget, rather than from the block grant. She also raised the possibility of differentiated immigration policies for devolved regions, to recognise the unique needs of NI. Ruth’s full presentation is available below along with a link to more information regarding the event.