Labour Blog

Labour Blog

We must seek a new Irish protocol to the EU Treaties

Posted on March 31, 2017 at 12:41 PM

There is no simple solution to resolving the problems that our island will face when the UK exits the European Union and the potentially devastating impact it will have on Northern Ireland and the Peace Process. The Labour Party supports the call by our sister party, the SDLP, for special status for Northern Ireland within the EU. However, with no settled position among the NI parties and the absence of a power sharing Executive, combined with the stated intention of Prime Minister May for the UK to exit the single market; a possible path forward has been outlined, but with no leaders from the region in a position to advocate within the EU for it. The Labour Party believes there should be a separate strand to the Article 50 negotiations to deal specifically with Ireland-UK issues, and Northern Ireland. Failing that, EU consent should be granted for a bilateral agreement to be negotiated between the two jurisdictions to address border issues. This must be addressed when Donald Tusk and the EU Council provide its negotiating priorities to the EU Commission.

It is now twenty years since the Belfast Agreement (the “Good Friday Agreement”) led to the end of the “The Troubles”. The Agreement was brought about thanks to the involvement of many people and organisations, not least the European Union.

EU membership has brought significant benefits to the island of Ireland over the last five decades; including investment in peace and community initiatives, strengthening human rights and social progress (such as improvements in the rights of workers, women, and LGBT+ citizens), and investment in cross-border initiatives and infrastructure. It was the passing of the EU Single Market that led to the removal of customs controls from the Irish border in 1993. The benefits of membership were reflected in the ‘Brexit’ referendum, when 56% of the Northern Irish electorate voted to Remain in the EU.

It is our belief that a new Irish Protocol to the EU Treaties must be included following Brexit. Such a protocol would acknowledge and recognise the special circumstances that apply on the island of Ireland. We support special status for Northern Ireland however no united position has emerged in Northern Ireland or in the UK that could or would negotiate for such an arrangement. An Irish protocol must also provide for any future united Ireland or other transitional status.

 

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