Sunday 25 February 2018

Right of Irish citizens in NI to also be EU citizens should continue post Brexit - UK Government

A 28-page position paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland published today (Stock)
A 28-page position paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland published today (Stock)
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The right of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland to also be EU citizens should continue post Brexit, as should European peace funding to the border counties until the current round expires in 2020, the UK government has said.

Then the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government should explore a potential future funding programme post 2020, the UK said, in a 28-page position paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland published today.

In terms of the border, measures could be put in place to mitigate customs procedures for cross-border businesses and an agreement could be secured to avoid the need for border checks on agri-food products between north and south, the paper says.

It also said that the UK and EU should agree a text that recognises the "ongoing status" of the Common Travel Area (CTA) post Brexit and associated reciprocal arrangements.

A UK government source said that while London does not want a technological border between Northern Ireland and the Republic to deal with goods,  one, however, may be employed in the future depending on what is agreed.

"It's not a priority for us to establish a border and then find ways of circumventing it," a UK government source said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney spoke to the media, at Iveagh House in Dublin, in response to the UK Government's Brexit proposals
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney spoke to the media, at Iveagh House in Dublin, in response to the UK Government's Brexit proposals

"We want to avoid a border entirely. Technological fixes might come in the future once we've decided which option we're going to use and how we produce it, but that's the spirit in which we're engaging on this."

It also dismisses the idea of a Border in the Irish Sea.

The 28-page paper states that the UK Government's desire is to avoid any return to a hard border, and to maintain as seamless and friction-less a border as possible. No mention is made of technological solutions in the position paper.

The paper states that the UK's desire to have control of immigration will not impact on the CTA.

"The development of our future immigration system will not impact on the ability to enter the UK from within the CTA free from routine border controls. It will support the preservation of the rights of British and Irish citizens as enjoyed today," the paper states.

It also said that the CTA can continue to operate in the current form without compromising in any way Ireland's requirement as an EU member state to allow free movement for EEA nationals in Ireland.

It said it believes an agreement on the CTA can be concluded swiftly in this first phase of negotiations.

The paper states that ensuring that nothing is done to undermine the Good Friday Agreement will require "detailed and close engagement" between the UK and the EU.

It said London and Dublin should formally recognise the citizenship rights set out in the Good Friday Agreement and agree to the continuation of Peace funding to Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic.

Between 1995 and 2013, the Peace programmes allocated almost €2bn of funding to projects. The current round, which runs to 2020, has a total value of €270m.

The UK said the current round of funding should continue until 2020 and then the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government should explore a potential future programme.

"Notwithstanding the outcome of the negotiations, the UK government would remain committed to peace and reconciliation programmes and to sustaining cross-border cooperation".

The paper also states that the talks should, at the earliest opportunity, focus on customs arrangements, checks and processes and sanitary and phytosanitary measures for agri-food.

Read more: Britain is playing 'hokey cokey' politics over Europe - but with Brexit there will be no winners

The British said their plans for a new customs partnership with the EU - in which the UK would be free to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world while maintaining free trade with the EU - would avoid the need for any Border.

Alternatively, "highly streamlined" arrangements would have to be put in place reflecting the "unique circumstances of Northern Ireland". These would ensure no new customs processes for smaller firms, and new trusted trade arrangements for larger firms.

In 2015, the paper notes, more than 80pc of North to South trade was carried out by micro, small and medium sized firms. It said the movement of goods across the border by these small firms cannot be properly categorised and treated as "economically significant international trade".

"Such an exemption would ensure that smaller traders could continue to operate as they do now, with no new requirements in relation to customs processes," the paper states.

 It said that for businesses engaged in larger amounts of trade, the UK would exlore with the EU how to ensure that administrative processes could be streamlined. This could include mutual recognition of Authorised Economic Operators (AEO), enabling faster clearance of goods at borders.

 It also proposes a continued waiver on submitting entry/exit declarations and continued membership of the common transit convention - meaning firms from Northern Ireland and the Republic would be able to move goods through the UK to mainland Europe without being hit with duties.

"We acknowledge this is an innovative and untested approach that would take time to develop and implement," the paper notes.

It is also proposing regulatory equivalence on agri-food measures, where the UK and EU agree to achieve the same outcome and standards. An agreement would negate the need for checks on agri-food products at the border between north and south, the paper states.

It also proposed continuing a single electricity market.

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