Dublin 'must seek special status for north within EU' after Brexit

Anti-Brexit protesters last year at a mock customs post on the Louth-Armagh border. Picture by Mal McCann

The Republic must push for a special EU status for Northern Ireland after Brexit, a parliamentary committee in Dublin has found.

The special status should allow all Irish citizens in the north to remain full EU citizens and would retain access to the single market and European courts, the cross-party watchdog says.

In a 42-page report on the likely impact of Brexit on the Irish economy, the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said it is "essential to argue the case for designated special status for Northern Ireland within the European Union" in imminent negotiations.

It found the special status must:

  • allow Northern Ireland access to the EU single market and all EU funding.
  • maintain access for the region to EU institutions including the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights as well as EU sectoral agreements.
  • protect access to EU employment rights, social security and healthcare.
  • protect the right of Northern Irish citizens to remain Irish and, therefore, EU citizens with all the rights that go with it.

The report was drawn up by TDs (MPs) and senators after a number of public hearings with government ministers from Dublin and Belfast, state investment agencies, trade unions and business leaders.

It will be handed to Dublin's Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor and the Oireachtas to help inform the Republic's approach to Brexit negotiations.

Mary Butler, committee chairwoman, said: "Maintaining the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement must remain a priority for all involved in the negotiations.

"The economies on both sides of the border are increasingly integrated and will be deeply affected by any change in the trading relationship between Ireland and the UK."

The report has also recommended a "transitional agreement", as close as possible to the status quo, is put in place until the UK's future relationship with the EU can be agreed.

It calls for exemptions to EU state aid rules to allow some industries in the Republic to cope with the economic upheaval of Brexit.

Furthermore, it has recommended unions and employers on both sides of the border develop an "early warning system" to identify businesses at risk from the upheaval and develop strategies to respond.

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