At the Oireachtas Joint Committee on EU Affairs we published a report this week entitled ‘UK-EU Future Relationship: Implications for Ireland’.
The report compiles the contributions of several weeks of hearings held in Leinster House on the possible implications of a UK exit from the EU for Ireland. It makes a number of recommendations to the Government.
The UK referendum on EU membership is of vital importance to Ireland because of the links between our countries, the number of citizens of Ireland residing in the UK and vice versa, the existence of the common travel area, the issue of Northern Ireland, among others.
Almost all families across Galway, Mayo and the West have relatives living and working in Britain. Furthermore, Britain is one of the primary markets for Irish companies, particularly SMEs. So, the issue is one which has potential consequences right across the two islands.
With the British Prime Minister, David Cameron seeking to re-negotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU – a move which will impact on all 28 Member States – the prospect of the UK leaving the EU is very possible. Given the implications on our own country we need to engage in the debate while respecting the important right of the people of Britain to make decisions on their country’s future.
Almost all of the experts who contributed to our hearings concluded that a British Exit from the EU – Brexit – will have negative consequences for Britain, for Ireland and for the EU as a whole.
It is our hope that our Committee’s report will help shape Government policy and spark engagement in this vital issue.
Recommendation 1: Future of Northern Ireland
That the Irish Government has a voice in relation to the future of Northern Ireland and must feature in EU negotiations with the UK.
Recommendation 2: Northern Ireland
That the Irish and UK Governments negotiate bilaterally to have Northern Ireland recognised (in an EU context) as having ‘a special position constitutionally’ in the UK, in view of the Good Friday Agreement. Recommends further that special arrangements be negotiated at EU level in that context, to maintain North-South relations and Northern Irish EU citizenship rights and protections attached to such rights.
Recommendation 3: North-South Bodies
That the Irish and UK Governments work together to put in place contingency arrangements immediately to replace any lost EU funding for cross-border community initiatives, to ensure that progress made under the Good Friday Agreement is not reversed.
Recommendation 4: North-South Relations
That the Irish and UK Governments devise new political linkages to support and maintain North-South relations, in particular in the sectoral specific areas such as agriculture and tourism to mitigate the effects of aa UK exit from the EU.
Recommendation 5: Common Travel Area
That the Irish Government move immediately, in conjunction with the UK government to protect the Common Travel Area, as the introduction of any restrictions on the right of the free movement of people may have a significant negative impact on the operation of the CTA between the UK and Ireland.
Recommendation 6: Common Travel Area
That the Irish and UK Governments establish, on a statutory basis, the Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on the Common Travel Area signed in 2011.
Recommendation 7: EU Border
That no external EU border be established on the island of Ireland separating North from South.
Recommendation 8: Raise Awareness
That the Irish Government engage with the Irish Community in the UK and Northern Ireland voters to raise awareness of the possible impact of any disruption to the Common Travel Area between the jurisdictions.
Recommendation 9: Ireland’s Economic Interests
That the Irish Government quantify the full potential cost to the Irish economy of a UK withdrawal from, in particular, the Single Market, in order to assure Ireland special status in the context of negotiations with the EU as a vital economic national interest for Ireland.
Recommendation 10: Free Movement of Goods and Services
That the Irish and UK Governments work bilaterally to ensure that, in the context of its negotiations with the EU, an accommodation for the continued free movement of goods and services be sought and secured for the highly inter-dependent Irish-UK trading relationship.
Recommendation 11: Trade & Investment – Raising Awareness
That the Irish Government raise awareness among Irish and UK business stakeholders of the potential economic cost of a disruption in Ireland/UK trade and investment.
Recommendation 12: Building Capital Markets Union
That the Irish Government be cognisant of the UK position on any reforms sought in the area of ‘Free Movement of Capital’, particularly in the context of the current consultation process being undertaken by the European Commission on ‘Building Capital Markets Union’.
Recommendation 13: Irish Financial Services Centre
That the Irish Government be cognisant of the linkages of UK and Irish financial services markets in the context of the sustainability of the IFSC.
Recommendation 14: Financial Services
That the Irish Government explore ways to secure current arrangements under the free movement of capital, so that Irish citizens and businesses that benefit from UK financial services, are not adversely affected by any future reforms that may occur from a change in the UK/EU relationship.
Recommendation 15: Common Travel Area
That the moment has come to urgently review the CTA (in anticipation) of changing relationships between the UK/EU and Ireland/UK and in particular to address the lack of a bilateral legal basis for the CTA. The Committee further recommends that the Irish government examine other options such as ‘a mini-Schengen’ as a possible solution for protection of the CTA.
Recommendation 16: Criminal Justice Affairs
That the ability for continued close co-operation between Ireland and the UK in the criminal justice areas into the future is critical and requires protection, notwithstanding the future status of the UK in the EU.
Recommendation 17: UK and the EU
That in view of the negative impact on the EU as a whole of the UK withdrawal from the EU, that negotiations commence immediately to find an accommodation for the UK within the EU, without undermining the core values of the EU and if possible, without Treaty change.
Recommendation 18: Bilateral Engagement
That the Irish Government engages bilaterally with other Member States of the EU to articulate Ireland’s particular concerns regarding an UK exit from the EU.
Recommendation 19: UK Question – An EU Issue
That the Irish Government use its influence in the EU to have the UK question seen as a European issue, not just a domestic UK issue.
Recommendation 20: EU Reform
That reform at EU level be based on the concept of, “Reform for the good of all EU Member States and the European Union itself’ to limit any contagion effect.