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Dublin needs role in Britain's EU negotiations

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson

THE Irish government should play a part in negotiations between UK and the EU to ensure the north's special circumstances are recognised in the event of 'Brexit', according to an Oireachtas report.

The report by the joint committee on European Union affairs says the Good Friday Agreement gave Northern Ireland has a 'special position' in the UK which would be adversely affected if Britain severed ties with Brussels.

The committee's examination of the north in an EU context heard membership had been a "genuine force for good" and had helped foster peace and reconciliation" in the region.

Its report recommends that the Dublin government has input on behalf of Northern Ireland and features in future EU negotiations with the UK. The committee also advocates arrangements to replace any lost EU funding for cross-border community initiatives and "new political linkages" to support and maintain north-south relations.

But Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson rejected Dublin's bid to be involved in negotiations, describing it as "joint authority by the back door".

Mr Nicholson said the British government had been given a mandate to seek a better deal with Brussels.

"While the Irish government may want the UK to stay in the EU it should have no place at the table in these negotiations – after all, it is a different member state with its own interests," he said.

"The UK's status will be decided only by the people of the UK. Any undue influence from the Irish government would be unacceptable."

But SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the committee was right to argue for Dublin government involvement in future negotiations.

"The ties that bind London and Dublin are so great and the EU is of such national importance to people in Ireland that London cannot negotiate on Europe regardless of Dublin's position," he said.

"Any other approach could run a coach and horses through the special relationship that, after years of challenge, is now maturing and growing."

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