Charlie Flanagan hails EU agreement on Northern Ireland

European leaders say the North can automatically rejoin bloc in the case of Irish unity

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has welcomed the EU’s agreement to allow Northern Ireland to automatically rejoin the EU in the case of a united Ireland. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has welcomed the EU’s agreement to allow Northern Ireland to automatically rejoin the EU in the case of a united Ireland. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

An agreement by European leaders to allow Northern Ireland to automatically rejoin the EU in the case of a united Ireland is a “very strong acknowledgement” of Ireland’s unique status in Brexit, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.

Speaking after the EU27 heads of state accepted a declaration on Northern Ireland’s future status during Saturday’s special Brexit summit in Brussels, Mr Flanagan said the move reflects the consistent support of the EU for the peace process.

“I warmly welcome the very strong acknowledgement in the guidelines adopted today by the European Council of the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland,” he said.

“The explicit recognition by the council of the importance of preserving the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts reflects the consistent support of the EU for the peace process.

“The statement agreed by the European Council today simply acknowledges this reality and confirms that, in the event of a united Ireland, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would legally be part of the EU.

“The Government sought this acknowledgment, which is a statement of legal fact, to provide reassurance that the integrity of this important aspect of the [Good Friday] Agreement is secure, regardless of the status of the UK within the EU.”

Border poll

The declaration paves the way for Northern Ireland to remain in or rejoin the bloc, depending on the timing of any potential Border poll on Irish reunification.

The declaration, known in Brussels as the “Kenny text”, says: “The European Council acknowledges that the Good Friday Agreement expressly provides for an agreed mechanism whereby a united Ireland may be brought about through peaceful and democratic means.

“In this regard, the European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the EU.”

The summit on Saturday was convened to agree on the EU’s approach to the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Prior to the meeting, European Council president Donald Tusk described the EU’s priorities in the talks as being “people, money and Ireland”.

Mr Flanagan welcomed the successful conclusion of the summit and said it marked an important moment in a long process.