The U.K. government has published a policy paper outlining its position on issues related to Ireland and Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit negotiations later in August that will focus on several Irish issues – in particular, how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
According to the policy paper, the U.K. will seek to maintain current arrangements such as the Common Travel Area that confers special mutual free movement privileges between Ireland and the U.K. that predate EU free movement, and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that settled the relationships between Northern Ireland, Ireland and Britain.
The paper contains the following key points:
- Rights under the Common Travel Area should be recognized in the EU-U.K. exit agreement. This means no passport controls for U.K. and Irish citizens traveling within the CTA and no new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
- The exit agreement should recognize that the people of Northern Ireland will continue to have a birthright to both Irish and British citizenship, as set out in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Anyone in Northern Ireland who is an Irish citizen will continue to benefit from the EU citizenship rights that flow from that.
- The U.K. and EU should initially agree on key principles of cooperation to test future models for border arrangements, including no physical border infrastructure between Ireland and the U.K./Northern Ireland.
- The Good Friday Agreement should be written into the exit agreement to reflect the absolute commitment of the U.K. government, Irish government, and the EU, to the peace process.
- Reconciliation projects in Northern Ireland/Ireland border areas that are jointly funded by the EU, the government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive should be continued and a future program after Brexit should be explored between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
BAL Analysis: The proposal will be discussed in further detail by Brexit negotiators later this month. Both the EU and the U.K. have previously stated their consensus that the Common Travel Area and Good Friday Agreement should be preserved and that they would like to avoid a hard land border between the U.K (Northern Ireland) and Ireland, but the realities of avoiding a hard border in particular may prove challenging. For deeper analysis on the unique issues that Brexit poses for Ireland, please view BAL’s white paper, “Brexit: What’s at Stake for Ireland” here.