Thursday 19 September 2019

EU to demand employees maintain their rights to work across Border

Stock picture
Stock picture

Shona Murray

The EU will call for its citizens to retain the right to work on the island of Ireland, including the North, after Brexit.

It is being stipulated to allay concerns from local businesses who have employees from EU member states living in Border counties which are part of the Republic but who are working in parts of the North - and vice versa.

Brussels lead negotiator Michel Barnier will insist EU citizens will be free to live and work in Northern Ireland after Brexit, even though the UK will have left the EU.

Ireland and the UK already have a common travel area for Irish and UK citizens to travel back and forth among the two islands.

For example, Eastern European farm workers living in Monaghan or Donegal but working on farms in Tyrone would be able to travel daily to work without restriction.

It protects the jobs and rights of EU citizens whose livelihoods and living circumstances are at risk due to the UK's decision to leave the EU.

The draft text will also demand Northern Ireland be part of a customs arrangement with the EU in order to prevent a hard Border being erected after Brexit.

All of the scenarios listed will only kick in if the UK and EU fail to agree a satisfactory alternative as part of the Brexit talks.


The UK insists it will be able to introduce high-tech solutions alongside a broad trade agreement with Brussels that will negate the need for customs and border checks.

So far the British government has failed to bring forward any such plans, and Britain is due to leave the EU in 12 months' time.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is due to present her government's proposals for its future relationship in a speech next week.

She spent a day with most of her cabinet colleagues at her Chequers retreat on Thursday where reports say the cabinet favours a move away from aligning with EU rules.

In order to prevent a border with the North, the UK will have to maintain full regulatory alignment on more than 150 areas such as agriculture. Any goods that cross the Border from Northern Ireland to the Republic will have to remain aligned with EU regulations in order to prevent a border from being erected.

"It is only with these conditions that we will have no border," said a source.

The situation will maintain Northern Ireland in a de facto customs union, but the British are said to be uncomfortable with this description as it sounds like a failure of Brexit.

"We don't care what happens with the rest of the UK - that is not our problem, but in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement and for there to be no border, then Northern Ireland will have to be aligned in these areas," said the well-placed EU source. "For face-saving, the Brexiteers can say something like 'alignment in certain areas - that's fine by me'," they said.

Mr Barnier is due to deliver the December agreement made by the EU and UK into legal text as part of the overall Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK is committed to regulatory alignment to protect the Good Friday Agreement, and in the event of no other solutions, will be contained in a protocol which has the same legal standing as the main part of the agreement.

Irish Independent

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