September 7, 2017

European Commission publishes guiding principles on Ireland and Northern Ireland

The European Commission has today set out its principles for the political dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations.

Today’s paper states that the Good Friday Agreement should continue to be protected and strengthened in all its parts after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. The continuation of the Common Travel Area, which facilitates the interaction of people in Ireland and the UK, should also be recognised.

Key issues include ensuring that: the interlocking political institutions on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, established by the Good Friday Agreement, continue to operate; cooperation (in particular, North-South cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland) is protected across all the relevant sectors; and that full account be taken of the birth right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as British or Irish, or both. Given Ireland’s unique situation in the Brexit negotiations, a unique solution is required.

In the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, the EU wishes to reach a common understanding with the UK on the implications of its withdrawal for the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area. Once there is sufficient progress on the principles set out in today’s paper, discussions may move to the second phase of negotiations, which aim to find flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. These solutions must respect the proper functioning of the internal market and the Customs Union, as well the integrity and effectiveness of the EU’s legal order. As it was the UK’s decision to leave the EU, it is the UK’s responsibility to propose solutions in this regard.

Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator said, “Today’s paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland is a concise and comprehensive text, which has been drafted in close cooperation with the Irish government. Our aim is to minimise the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU for the island of Ireland. But as it was the UK’s decision to leave the EU, it is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with solutions to overcome the challenges for the island of Ireland.”

Full paper available here.

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