EU draft guidelines ignore `north's special status'

Fianna Fail leader Michéal Martin. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

FIANNA Fáil leader Michel Martin has expressed "deep disappointment" that draft EU guidelines for Brexit make no reference to special status for the north.

Simply referring to the Good Friday Agreement did not go far enough, he said.

EU leaders will meet to decide their strategy for the Brexit negotiations at a special summit at the end of April. The EU has published its draft guidelines on the strategy for Brexit saying there needs to be "imagination" on the border question.

European Council President Donald Tusk said there was a need for "flexible and creative solutions aiming at avoiding a hard border" between the north and Republic.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Martin said there was no positive outcome possible to the negotiations. Whatever emerged, he said, would be bad for Ireland, bad for Europe "and, quite frankly, bad for world".

Through the course of the debate on Brexit, he added, the Taoiseach had given no detail on whether Ireland was seeking any changes to the draft text circulated on March 31.

That text said that the EU "has consistently supported the goal of peace and reconciliation enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, and continuing to support and protect the achievements, benefits and commitments of the peace process will remain of paramount importance".

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU referendum by a majority of 56 to 44 per cent.

Mr Martin said: "We are deeply disappointed that the draft makes no reference to the fact that 1.8 million residents of Northern Ireland will continue to have the right to EU citizenship post-Brexit.

"Simply referring to the Good Friday Agreement does not address this point. Recognising their citizenship upfront immediately sets a new tone and pushes all parties to greater flexibility.

"This is a unique situation and it should be explicitly referenced in the text. It is simply inexplicable that the Taoiseach has refused to seek this small but important change."

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