Irish in UK may secure ‘bilateral’ deal if Brexit happens
EU approval needed for bilateral deal benefiting Irish citizens, says Commons committee
Ian Paisley jnr MP member of Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which concluded it was impossible to predict the impact of Brexit on the North without knowing what kind of EU trade deal Britain would secure. Photograph: PA Wire
If Brexit happens, Britain and Ireland could negotiate a bilateral deal giving special status to Irish citizens in the UK – but only with the approval of the European Union, the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has concluded.
The committee, a narrow majority of whose members want to leave the EU, said in a report published yesterday that it was impossible to predict the impact of Brexit on the North without knowing what kind of EU trade deal Britain would secure.
The report, which followed hearings in London, Belfast and Brussels, looked at the potential impact on trade, commerce, agriculture, the Border and cross-Border issues, including the peace process.
On the issue of the Border, the committee found all likely scenarios unsatisfactory, from a hard Border to the imposition of security checks between the island of Ireland and Britain.
“There must be doubts about the extent to which, in the event of a Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be effectively policed and the disruption to those who cross the Border for work or study would be considerable,” the report said.
The committee expressed concern about the effect of leaving the EU on farm incomes in Northern Ireland, which are greatly dependent on EU subsidies.
Unless EU subsidies are replaced by funding from London, the report concluded, much of the North’s farming would be unviable.
The committee’s report comes as polls continue to show a close referendum contest, with Remain slightly ahead.
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An analysis, by Caitlin Milazzo of Nottingham University, of the nearly 3,000 campaign events held so far shows that the Remain campaign has consistently held more events than the Leave campaign, and in a larger number of areas.
Dr Milazzo found that the Remain side was also making smarter choices about where to campaign, focusing on densely populated areas where support for staying in the EU is strongest.
“If the two campaigns are seeking to implement a mobilisation strategy – that is, they want to mobilise individuals who favour their position to come out to vote – then Remain is arguably making more strategic choices by avoiding areas where they are unlikely to mobilise large numbers of their own supporters,” she said.
“Moreover, mobilisation events are likely to have a greater impact when they are held in densely populated areas, as they can reach more people with less effort,” Dr Milazzo said.