Brexit: European Commission publishes guiding principles on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details IP/17/3105 (07.09.17)
Publication Date 07/09/2017
Content Type

Background and further information:
The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and how it will operate, is one of the three main areas of discussion in the first phase of Brexit negotiations from June to October 2017.

The United Kingdom government had issued on the 16 August 2017 the second of a series of papers putting forward its negotiating position on the UK’s future partnership with the European Union (EU). It was published in the context of the negotiations being undertaken with the EU for the UK to leave the union following the Brexit referendum vote of June 2016.

This position paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland outlined the UK’s position on addressing the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the land border with Ireland.

The position paper — which had been published ahead of the August 2017 negotiating round between the EU and UK — stated that the Government would protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and associated rights for UK and Irish citizens, and put upholding the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement at the heart of its Exit negotiations.

The paper also put forward proposals on avoiding a hard border on the movement of goods — making clear the UK’s position that there should be no physical infrastructure at the border — and planned to preserve the wide range of institutional cooperation between Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain including for the energy market.
The European Commission set out on the 7 September 2017 its principles for the political dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations.

The Paper stated 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 facilitated the interaction of people in Ireland and the UK, should also be recognised.

Key issues included 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) was protected across all the relevant sectors;
+ 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 was required.

In the first phase of the Brexit negotiations up to October 2017, the EU wished 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 was sufficient progress on the principles set out in the paper, discussions might move to the second phase of negotiations, which aimed 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 was the UK's responsibility to propose solutions in this regard.

Source Link
Related Links
Politico, 07.09.17: UK cannot use Northern Ireland as post-Brexit ‘test case,’ says Michel Barnier
EUObserver, 07.09.17: UK's ideas on Ireland 'worry' EU negotiator
European Commission: DG Communication: SPEECH/17/3145, 07.09.17: Statement by Michel Barnier on the publication of the Guiding Principles for the Dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland
The Conversation, 08.09.17: Remarkable flexibility on Northern Ireland from the EU – the UK government should take note
ESO: Background information: Brexit Negotiations: The Irish border question
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
ESO: Key Source: The impact of Brexit in Ireland
European Commission: Publications: Position Paper, September 2017: Guiding principles transmitted to EU27 for the Dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland
Ireland: Government: News, 07.09.17: Government Statement on Guiding Principles on the Dialogue for Ireland/Northern Ireland
European Commission: Publications: Position Paper, September 2017: Commission to UK: Guiding principles for the Dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland

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