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UK-Irish relations and Brexit: EU Select Committee inquiry

The UK Parliament’s EU Select Committee has conducted an inquiry into the impact on the relationship between the UK and Ireland following the vote by UK citizens to leave the European Union.

The inquiry considered the impact on the Common Travel Area, trade relationships and the Irish land border. The Committee assessed the impact of Brexit on the rights of Irish citizens residing in the UK and UK-Irish interparliamentary liaison.

The nature of UK-Irish relations is unique, and as such the situation requires official recognition:

‘We do not underestimate the legal and institutional difficulties of translating such recognition into a final agreement. Yet the unique nature of UK-Irish relations necessitates a unique solution. The best way to achieve this would be for the EU institutions and Member States to invite the UK and Irish Governments to negotiate a draft bilateral agreement, involving and incorporating the views and interests of the Northern Ireland Executive, while keeping the EU itself fully informed. Such an agreement would then need to be agreed by EU partners, as a strand of the withdrawal agreement.

Key objectives of any bilateral negotiation should include: maintenance of the current open land border between the UK and Ireland, as well as of the ease of movement across the sea boundary between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK; maintenance of the current Common Travel Area arrangements, and the right of free movement of UK and Irish citizens between the jurisdictions; maintenance of the right of UK and Irish citizens to reside and work in each other’s countries; the retention of rights to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship for the people of Northern Ireland; in the event that the UK leaves the customs union, a customs and trade arrangement between the two countries, subject to the agreement of the EU institutions and Member States; acceptance of the Northern Ireland Executive’s right to exercise devolved powers in making decisions about the free movement of EU workers within its jurisdiction; reaffirmation by both governments of their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, including continued support for existing cross-border cooperation; and continued eligibility for cross-border projects to EU funding programmes.’

The inquiry has now concluded and the report has been published. You can read the full report by clicking here. We have picked out a key highlight from the report:

‘It is imperative that the longstanding rights of UK and Irish citizens to reside and work in each other’s countries be retained. We urge the Government to confirm that the rights of Irish citizens under domestic law will be maintained, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.’

Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like further guidance.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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