Written Evidence: ‘Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum’ Inquiry.

A response to the Northen Ireland Affairs Committee regarding the ‘Northern Ireland and the EU Reference’ Inquiry, submitted in February 2016.

Summary of key points:

  • The terms and themes of political debate in relation to the EU have an added meaning in the NI context (eg, sovereignty).
  • While there are issues unique to NI, the NI-specific impacts of the mainstream issues must also be considered.
  • The EU issues should be considered in the context of other constitutional changes currently bedding in (eg, English Votes for English Laws).
  • The continued membership of the EU by both the UK and Ireland is perceived by some as implied by the Good Friday Agreement. The EU has acted as a stabilising external force throughout the peace process.
  • EU membership is connected to human rights protections which themselves are essential for compliance with the Good Friday Agreement. This interaction of issues is significant in light of plans to change the Human Rights Act.
  • The potential consequences of the EU referendum result should be foreseen and accounted for in a UK-Ireland Bilateral Interpretive Agreement.
  • Brexit could necessitate customs checks and passport checks at the NI-ROI border.
  • The possible impacts on the UK-Ireland border might be ameliorated by UK and Irish membership of Schengen (possible for non-EU member states), or a new UK-EU trade agreement that took proper account of the border.
  • There are a number of funding programmes to which NI access would be lost if Brexit occurred. This would especially impact border areas and would leave a significant funding shortfall in those areas.
  • The UK’s loss of the preferential trade agreements that come through the EU could lead to disparities of economic performance and competitiveness between NI and the ROI.
  • Brexit might particularly affect farming and US investment in NI, as both are current beneficiaries of EU agreements.