Sunday 23 July 2017

Brexit impact is 'likely to be worse for Irish economy than the British'

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tom Burke
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

ANY negative impact of Brexit on the UK economy is likely to be "replicated, or even magnified" for Ireland, a report by the British House of Lords warns.

It said the European Union would have to allow the UK and Irish governments to find a "unique solution" and give "official recognition to the special, unique nature of UK-Irish relations".

The report, compiled by the House of Lords EU Committee, will be launched in Dublin and London today with its authors stressing Ireland faced a "huge challenge".

The committee warned that if the UK government and the EU Institutions failed to pay enough attention to the consequences of Brexit for Ireland, North and South, it risked undermining "the efforts of all those who have worked so hard for peace and good relations across these islands".

And it argued that the Northern Ireland Executive should retain the right to make decisions about the free movement of EU nationals within its jurisdiction.

"We need early agreement on all sides that the UK and Ireland should be allowed to reach a draft bilateral agreement, one that protects the unique nature of UK-Irish relations, of Northern Ireland, and of North-South relations on the island of Ireland. It should guarantee open land borders and sea boundaries, support cross-border trade, and preserve EU funding for cross-border projects," committee chairman Lord Boswell, speaking of the report's launch, said.

"That agreement can then be put to the other EU member states and agreed as part of the wider Brexit negotiations."

The committee noted that if the UK left the customs union the challenges facing Ireland would be heightened significantly.

It concluded this would result in customs checks and make the open border "impossible to retain unless the EU is willing to accept that the special circumstances in Ireland, North and South, demand a novel approach".

The report also said that free travel, both North-South and East-West, was crucial to stability, prosperity and confidence on both sides of the Border.

Among the key recommendations was a special deal which would include:

Continuation of the current open land border between the UK and Ireland.

Maintenance of the Common Travel Area.

Retention of the right to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship for the people of Northern Ireland.

A customs and trade arrangement between the UK and Ireland if the UK left the customs union.

Continued access to EU funding for cross-border projects.

According to Lord Boswell, much of the progress achieved following the Good Friday Agreement had been "based on the fact that both the UK and the Republic of Ireland are EU member states, with free movement and trade across an open border".

"Both the UK and Irish governments desperately want to avoid a return to hard borders," he said. "But the Republic of Ireland will remain in the EU, and any agreement to allow an open border to remain will have to be agreed by all the other EU member states. That's not a given."

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will meet his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders to discuss Brexit.

Irish Independent

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