The British government released a policy paper on 16 August, titled Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper. This position paper—published prior to the next negotiations meeting with the EU—outlines Britain’s position on the European land border dividing Northern Ireland and Ireland.
The government aims to protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and its associated rights for current members. The CTA is a special travel zone that links the Republic of Ireland and the UK Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The agreement allows members of the CTA to travel freely with minimal immigration checks. The government is strongly committed to maintaining this agreement and the paper emphasises that the Withdrawal Agreement should recognise its ongoing status. This means that there should be no passport controls for British and Irish citizens travelling within the CTA and ‘no question of new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland.’
The Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper also proposes to uphold the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement, putting it at the heart of the government’s Brexit negotiations. The Belfast Agreement was put in place in 1998 to resolve political disagreements between the British and Irish governments on how Ireland should be governed. The passing of the agreement presented a new cornerstone of peace among the once divided islands.
David Davis, the secretary of state for exit for the UK said, ‘The UK and Ireland have been clear all along that we need to prioritise protecting the Belfast Agreement in these negotiations, and ensure the land border is as seamless as possible for people and businesses.’ He continued, ‘The proposals we outline in this paper do exactly that, and we’re looking ford to seeing the EU’s positon paper on the Northern Ireland border.
‘In committing to keep the Common Travel Area, which has existed for nearly a century, we’re making sure UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel, live, work and study across both countries.’
The Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper reiterates the UK’s position that the Belfast Agreement should be written into the Withdrawal Agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement should also state that the people of Northern Ireland will continue to have a birth right to both Irish and British citizenship as already outlined in the Belfast Agreement.
Beyond the protection of the CTA and Belfast Agreement, the UK government aims to avoid a hard border on the movement of goods. The paper makes it clear that there should not be any physical infrastructure at the border that would significantly impact trade between the UK and the EU.
James Brokenshire, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, stated ‘This paper shows the government’s commitment to protecting and advancing the unique interests of Northern Ireland as we leave the EU. We are fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and the principles, rights and institutions it established.’ He continued, ‘The paper provides flexible and imaginative ideas and demonstrates our desire to find a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social and cultural context of the land border with Ireland, without creating any new obstacles to trade within the UK. I believe it is possible to find a solution that works for the UK, for Ireland and for the EU—and, specifically, for Northern Ireland—and am determined to work to achieve that.’
Read the Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper, here.
Further reading: GOVERNMENT TO ISSUE FIVE BREXIT PAPERS