The European Movement in Northern Ireland (EMNI) has welcomed the publication of a Discussion Paper recommending that Northern Ireland joins the European Economic Area (EEA), following the UK’s departure from the European Union.The paper, published by the European Policy Centre, proposed that if Northern Ireland joined the EEA many of the challenges associated with the imposition of a hardened border as a consequence of a ‘hard’ Brexit ‘would be addressed’.
A much harder border on the island of Ireland would be avoided; the economic impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland would be lessened; and Brexit-related concerns for the future of the peace process would be reduced.
Ciaran Hanna, Deputy Chair of EMNI said:
“In his response to the triggering of Article 50 last month, the European Council President Donald Tusk outlined four key issues as part of the first phase of the EU/UK negotiations. He made clear the fourth issue was that the EU ‘will seek flexible and creative solutions aiming at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland’ as it is of ‘crucial importance to support the peace process in Northern Ireland’. This EPC discussion paper proposes precisely that, a solution which is both creative and flexible. It makes clear the EEA option would ensure a ‘high degree of continuity with the status quo’, and with the EEA there would be clarity; the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit would therefore be reduced”.
The EMNI had said that a UK withdrawal from the EU poses many challenges for Northern Ireland. Ciarán Hanna believes that these could be mitigated by joining
the EEA, thereby maintaining the free movement of goods, services and capital between Northern Ireland and the EU:
“Membership of the EEA would not, in itself, avoid a customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but EEA membership means that no tariffs could be raised by EU member states on goods produced in Northern Ireland. The EEA proposal is really the only option that allows us to try to scramble something from the mess of Brexit. In effect, given that Northern Ireland voted remain, is separate from Great Britain, yet shares a border with another EU country, we have a strong case for advocating this proposal, as possibly has Gibraltar.”
Mr Hanna added:
“We need discussion on this, and then political support to make our case at EU level, but particularly to the British Government to fully look at this ‘creative solution’ to our problem. Also, we are looking a commitment to have another referendum on the final negotiations. People’s views were important in mandating the PM to begin the negotiations, but suddenly now, Brexiteers are most reluctant to want us to have another say. Northern Ireland voters should be consulted on whatever deal the UK Government wants to enforce on us.”
- The European Policy Discussion Paper on EEA membership for Northern Ireland is published here: http://www.epc.eu/documents/uploads/pub_7576_northernirelandandbrexit.pdf
- EU Council President’s remarks on the next steps following the UK notification can be found here: