Charlie Flanagan cautions on seeking Brexit ‘special status’ in EU

Minister warns on creating concerns for other EU partners about setting precedents

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has warned against Ireland seeking "special status'' within the EU following Brexit.

He said such concepts and terms would give rise to serious concerns for other EU partners about precedents that might be set elsewhere.

"This would risk undermining the Government's efforts to specifically address and mitigate the very real impacts facing our island – and the people of Northern Ireland in particular – due to Brexit,'' he added.

He was replying in the Dáil to a Sinn Féin private member’s motion calling for a special designation for Northern Ireland.


Mr Flanagan said while he entirely understood the rationale, the fact was such a proposal would unnecessarily distract from work to secure arrangements which reflected the genuine uniqueness of Northern Ireland’s situation.

This was founded in the peace process and the Belfast Agreement, as well as its geographic status as the only land border between the UK and the EU.

Mr Flanagan said Brexit was at the very top of the Government’s agenda and had been since well before the referendum vote in the UK.

“It is on the top of the agenda in every department across Government, and that’s doubly true for my own department and the Department of An Taoiseach,’’ he added.

The Minister said he himself had over 150 high-level meetings and discussions.

Disappointment at Taoiseach

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he was deeply disappointed at Taoiseach Enda Kenny's opposition to a special designated status for the North.

"The Taoiseach's response reflects a deep flaw in the Government's approach to Brexit,'' Mr Adams added.

He said the Government’s stance ignored the widespread opposition on the island to partition, as well as the Belfast Agreement which recognised the North’s unique status.

Mr Adams said the EU had demonstrated its ability to be flexible in coming forward with pragmatic arrangements for dealing with complex situations.

Some 25 overseas countries and territories had a special relationship status with the EU, he added. “Does the Taoiseach believe it is beyond the ability of the people of this island to shape out a special arrangement for the North arising from Brexit?” asked Mr Adams.

“Had those of us who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement taken that approach, there would have been no agreement.’’

He said the Taoiseach’s position was unacceptable. “No Irish government should meekly accept the rejection by a blow-in British secretary of state that Britain will not accept a special designated status for the North,’’ Mr Adams added. He said he had repeatedly called on the Taoiseach and the Government to agree a strategic approach to the negotiations with clear political, economic and trade objectives.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times