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Report argues for Northern Ireland to remain in EU post-Brexit

Nikos Skoutaris argues any Brexit agreement needs to `recognise the unique position and special circumstances of Northern Ireland'

THE UK's withdrawal agreement should allow Northern Ireland to stay in the single market and customs union and provide "a legal route" for its reintegration into the EU after Brexit, according to a senior law lecturer.

An independent report by Nikos Skoutaris, senior lecturer in EU law at University of East Anglia (UEA), emphasises the "special relationship that Northern Ireland should enjoy with the EU... (if) the specific technological solutions fail to effectively address the Irish border issue".

Dr Skoutaris argues any Brexit agreement needs to "recognise the unique position and special circumstances of Northern Ireland".

He said the special designated status should "respect the principle of consent and the right of self-determination" by enshrining a legal route around Northern Ireland's reintegration into the EU.

The report, commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group of the European Parliament, also calls for the all-island economy to be protected by allowing the north's continued participation in the single market and customs union.

"Such a status should be understood as a mutually-agreed arrangement that will respect and protect the unique constitutional status of the region as provided by all three strands of the Good Friday Agreement," Dr Skoutaris said.

He stressed that there should be no corresponding weakening of the so-called `East-West' institutions.

However, he acknowledges that the main challenge in reaching such an arrangement "will lie in building a consensus about what would constitute the unique and imaginative solution that will have to be found for Northern Ireland".

Dr Skoutaris said: "Unless such an arrangement is reached, the fragile balance that the agreement has established will be threatened.

"The very logic of the peace process dictates that Northern Ireland should enjoy a special designated status within the EU by taking into account and strengthening all three strands."

Dr Skoutaris leads a research project on `The De-Europeanisation of Border Conflicts: The Effect of Brexit on Territorial Borders and Boundaries'.

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