MPs to explore impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland

Inquiry will investigate implications of exit on peace process and other concerns

The St George’s Cross, European Union and Union flags outside a hotel in London. British MPs have launched an inquiry into the potential impact on Northern Ireland of a decision to leave the EU. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

The St George’s Cross, European Union and Union flags outside a hotel in London. British MPs have launched an inquiry into the potential impact on Northern Ireland of a decision to leave the EU. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

 

British MPs have launched an inquiry into the potential impact on Northern Ireland of a decision to leave the European Union, including implications for cross-border relations.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday called for written evidence in advance of public hearings in February and March.

The inquiry will consider the implications of Brexit for the peace process, the Border, the North’s economy, agriculture and energy markets. It will also consider if EU membership benefits to Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of Ireland economically, politically and socially.

The MPs will look at the consequences of the loss of EU funds for Northern Ireland, and how these could be compensated by the British government from money that would otherwise have been paid to the EU.

They will also consider if opportunities could exist for the government to increase spending and to reduce taxes in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves the EU.

No sides

Laurence Robertson

“Our aim is not to make a recommendation on whether the people of Northern Ireland should vote to leave the EU or remain a member,” Mr Robertson said. “Rather, we will look to inform public debate on the specific issues affecting Northern Ireland that should be considered.”

EU leaders will discuss prime minister David Cameron’s reform demands at a summit in Brussels next month. If they agree a deal, the referendum could be held as early as June.

Mr Cameron has told members of his cabinet that they will be free to campaign on either side once his renegotiation is complete.

On Monday the prime minister hinted that, following renegotiations, he could introduce legislation making it clear that the British parliament is sovereign and that its courts are not bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Further amendments

“If it’s necessary to do that again, in more detail, to make it even clearer to people that our Parliament is sovereign . . . I think there’s a good case for it and so we’ll look very carefully at it,” he said.

Two opinion polls this week suggest that the Leave campaign has moved into the lead after months of polling showing the Remain side ahead.

A Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday put 42 per cent in favour of leaving the EU, 38 per cent for staying and 20 per cent yet to decide. A Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times put the Leave lead at four points.

The Remain campaign is sending 10 million leaflets to householders this week, warning that the cost of shopping will go up if Britain leaves the EU.

For its part, the Leave campaign is warning that Britain could experience events such as the mass sexual harassment and violence in Cologne on New Year’s Eve unless it leaves the EU.