By Kieran Hartley, Fianna Fail candidate in the European Elections
There have been many calls for Northern Ireland to be assigned EU special status in order to avoid economic turmoil in Northern Ireland. MEP’s, including Ireland’s, have endorsed a resolution which states that Brexit negotiations must recognise the "unique and special circumstances confronting the island of Ireland".
Our geographic Island position off the North West of the EU mainland and westward of the UK has resulted in the UK being one of Ireland’s primary trading partners. We cannot alter our geography, historically our Agri and SME sectors have significant trade with the UK, relatively recently our FDI’s, Tech and Pharmaceutical industries are located within the EU primarily to take advantage of the EU trading block. Ireland, North or South, East or West, cannot afford to sacrifice either side of our vital economic activity; we must avoid economic turmoil on the entire Island or Ireland as best we can.
The entire Island of Ireland requires EU special status.
Manfred Weber MEP, and chair of the EPP group said during the EU parliament debate that we should “avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland”. He warned Britain could not cherry-pick once it leaves the EU and that "A state outside of the European cannot have the same or better conditions than a state inside the European Union" The EU28 need to be aware of the consequence facing all of the members of the remaining EU27, Ireland’s geography dictates special status. Irelands Four Fine Gael MEP’s are part of this EPP political grouping and should be mindful of fellow EU MEP’s navel gazing from the EU mainland to the detriment of Ireland, North & South.
The Good Friday agreement guarantees all Citizens of NI access to an Irish passport and unhindered travel access to the EU, an all Island EU special status will protect the right of NI citizens as EU citizens and all associated rights should they wish to avail of them. This will strengthen the Good Friday agreement, an agreement that cannot be reneged on. A unseen consequence of the Good Friday agreement is that it automatically infers different EU status to all Irish passport holders, North or South, in comparison the Dutch, German, French EU passport holders. The entire Island is already special status and needs to be formally recognised as such by the EU & UK
The notion of a hard border dissipates if there is all Island EU special status. The notion of a border poll dissipates if there is all Island special status, from a UK perspective dissipating border polls and special status may have a positive effect with regard to Scotland.
We need to maintain the common travel area; limiting EU special status to NI will not help achieve this. We need to preserve access to the single market and all Island EU special status guaranteed this for NI. This will enable access to EU funding streams for the entire Island of Ireland and establish a quid-pro-quo between the EU and UK with regard to the Brexit bill.
There will be a border, geography creates history and the reality of our Island geography should be recognised. We did not ask for Brexit, but we have to deal with the consequences of it as best we can. We can be Irish, Europeans and trade with our nearest neighbour as we currently do after Brexit. Spain’s veto over Gibraltar in the EU negotiations heralds Irelands veto over itself with regard to EU membership – we cannot get our Brexit negotiations wrong. The Unions of both the UK & EU are at risk if they get Brexit wrong. Irexit is an entirely avoidable path if the entire Island of Ireland has EU special status with the Brexit negotiations between the EU & UK.