UK Lords demand Northern Irish EU deal
Few parties want a return to a sealed border. Source: Wikimedia
Britain and Ireland would put peace at risk if they do not start their own talks on their shared border in Northern Ireland, a UK House of Lords committee has warned.
North Ireland must have an open border and access to EU citizenship and funding following Brexit, the report urged.
The peers said the complex relationship between Dublin and London meant leaders should negotiate a draft bilateral agreement, which could then be formalised as part of any Brexit deal.
Ignoring the delicate situation in the troubled six counties of Northern Ireland would undermine “efforts of all those who have worked so hard for peace”, the upper house’s report said.
Brussels is reluctant to grant the UK free trading rights if restrictions are imposed on the movements of EU citizens.
The House of Lords EU Committee said Brexit was a “huge challenge” for Ireland and demanded all parties give “official recognition to the special, unique nature of UK-Irish relations”.
The report recommends maintenance of the common travel area, free movement within it for UK and Irish citizens, and their right to reside and work in both countries. It called for the retention of the right to Irish (and EU) citizenship for Northern Irish residents and reaffirmation by both governments of their commitment to the Good Friday peace agreement and continued support for cross-border cooperation.
Committee chairman Lord Boswell said: “The burgeoning peace process following the Good Friday Agreement has improved people’s lives right across the island of Ireland.
“That progress has in part 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. Brexit means that there is now a question mark over these achievements.
“Both the UK and Irish governments desperately want to avoid a return to hard borders. 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.
“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.”
He said any deal should “guarantee open land borders and sea boundaries, support cross-border trade and preserve EU funding for cross-border projects”.
London has said it did not want a hard border between the UK and the Irish Republic after Brexit.