Martin says North needs some sort of special status in EU
Fianna Fáil leader says Ireland may need to push for EU rule changes in Brexit talks
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: he said the draft guidelines published in advance of the summit “fell short of what is required from Ireland’s perspective”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the Taoiseach and Irish officials must push for commitments to change EU regulations as they apply to Ireland if that becomes necessary in the Brexit negotiations.
Speaking in advance of the summit of European leaders in Brussels on Saturday, Mr Martin said the commitments to Ireland in the draft negotiating guidelines – such as the agreement to maintain the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK – were all subject to compatibility with EU law.
“That could be quite restrictive. We may need to push for EU regulations to be changed to accommodate Ireland’s position,” Mr Martin said.
“We may need changes in EU regulations, for examples, to accommodate say a specific trading zone in Ireland. Trade will be the core issue.”
Asked if he supported Sinn Féin’s call for a special status for Northern Ireland within the EU, Mr Martin said: “You need some sort of special status. The British or the unionists may have some difficulty with the language, but the language doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact of the arrangements.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the draft guidelines published in advance of the summit “fell short of what is required from Ireland’s perspective, including the North where the people voted to remain with the EU in last June’s referendum”.
Mr Adams said the Government should be “seeking a political declaration from the European Council in its negotiation guidelines in relation to securing designated special status for the North within the EU”.
“Such a declaration should seek to address the Single Market, Common Travel Area, EU funding streams, rights of Irish citizens in the North of Ireland and protection of rights and maintain access to EU institutions.
“After Britain leaves the union we believe that no agreement between the EU and the British government should apply to the North of Ireland without agreement of both governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement – an international treaty.”
Mr Adams added that Northern MEPs should continue to sit in the European Parliament.
“The approach, thus far, of the Taoiseach to these negotiations has fallen far short of what is both required and expected.”
Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party has warned against Brexit being used as an excuse to break up the UK after it emerged there had been attempts to include provisions for a future united Ireland in Britain’s EU departure talks.
Jim Nicholson, a UUP member of the European Parliament, said “neither Dublin or Brussels speaks for Northern Ireland” in response to the Financial Times story on Friday.
The details were confirmed to The Irish Times by a high-ranking Irish official familiar with the discussions.
The official confirmed the question of facilitating Irish unity in accordance with the Belfast Agreement would not be contained in the guidelines around the Brexit negotiations but in separate documents produced for those talks.
Downing Street on Friday declined to comment on the reports. However, privately British officials are relaxed about the statement the EU leaders are expected to make, which echoes what Brexit secretary David Davis said in a letter to SDLP MP Mark Durkan last month.
“As is clearly set out in the Belfast Agreement, if a majority of the people of Northern Ireland were ever to vote to become part of a united Ireland, the UK government will honour its commitment in the Belfast Agreement to enable that to happen. In that event, Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state,” Mr Davis said.
Mr Nicholson said on Friday it “is disappointing to see that some are using Brexit as an excuse to try to break up the United Kingdom”.
He said Brussels needed to be clear that the Belfast Agreement “cannot be cherrypicked”.
“It affirmed the fact that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority of its people wish to remain so.
“This also means that any ‘special status’ that puts a de facto border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain risks breaching the agreement.”