The impact of Brexit and what Ireland needs to do in order to peacefully achieve its aim of a united Ireland is the subject of a new report published today by an Oireachtas committee.
The report, "Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland and It’s People in Peace and Prosperity" outlines in detail the options for the island of Ireland in the wake of Brexit.
The report by the cross-party committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement focuses on the potential impact of Brexit on the prospects of a united Ireland and makes 17 recommendations in the regard.
It suggests, in particular, that the eligibility of Northern Ireland for receipt of EU Structural funds and other funding schemes and mechanisms must be clarified as a matter of urgency to help underpin the peace process following Brexit.
The report proposes the setting up of a New Ireland Forum to set a pathway to achieve the peaceful unification of Ireland.
Other major recommendations include:
• Any passport controls between Ireland and the UK should be along the same basis as for people traveling between these islands from 1939 to 1952. There should not be a return to passport controls.
• Given the likely impact on certain categories, including women, in border counties and employment in these areas there is a need for impact analysis on these sectors of society. Further research into the income and expenditure for Northern Ireland should be carried out.
• Welcome the declaration agreed to by the European Council on 29 April 2017 which provides for Northern Ireland automatically becoming part of the EU in the event of a future united Ireland. This declaration known in Brussels as ‘The Kenny Text’ is similar to that of Commission President Jacque Delors in January 1990 on the issue of German Unification ‘East Germany is a special case’.
• It is recognised that World Trade Organisation rules and a hard border would have a detrimental impact on Ireland North and South & Further impact assessment is required on the economic impact of reunification. The Committee urges that the matter of EU funding for Northern Ireland and the border region remains high on the agenda and an expeditious solution is found for successor programmes after 2020.
• Establish an international task force with experts in security so that plans to meet any risks may be devised and implemented.
• Fears and concerns of the Unionist community need to be examined, understood and addressed comprehensively by all stakeholders in advance of any referendum.
• The legacy issues in society outlined by Senator Frances Black and the inter-generational impact of the troubles in terms of mental health consequences and substance abuse needs to be addressed
• Explore potential solutions to resolve disputes that may arise from the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, as recommended
• Lessons from referendums need to be learned to ensure that the Irish government fulfils its constitutional obligations.
• The Government needs to carry out an audit in relation to the legal and constitutional changes pre and post-unification.
Report rapporteur Senator Mark Daly said it was clear from all the reports written on the issue of Brexit that its effect on Northern Ireland will be significant.
"In February 2016 research commissioned by the UK Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment on the economic implications of a UK exit from the EU showed that Northern Ireland is more vulnerable to Brexit than Britain. The loss to Northern Ireland of EU membership and funding will be significant, and the subsequent effect on the economy and the potential to destabilise the Peace Process is a central concern.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today , Senator Daly went on to say one of the major benefits of reunification would be economic.
"From the 17 recommendations in the report, it is quite clear we need to do a lot in advance of any referendum.
"One of the findings was that there would be a benefit for the all-island economy of €35.6 billion in the first eight years after reunification.
"Again those figures were supplied and that report was done prior to the Brexit referendum."
Reacting to the report today Ulster Unionist Finance spokesperson Steve Aiken said the self-determination of the people of Northern Ireland must be respected.
“This is a United Ireland wish list dressed up as a Brexit report. Instead of poorly researched and highly biased ‘evidence’ gathering, politicians in the Republic would be better served looking after their own domestic affairs and dealing with their own considerable European challenges, rather than seeking to undermine the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.
“At a time when all parties should be working constructively together to overcome the challenges and maximise the opportunities of Brexit, this report offers little and in fact is disingenuous by not respecting the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland – you would nearly think that the Republic’s election campaign has already begun.
“The Belfast Agreement is clear, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom until its people say otherwise. The self-determination of Northern Ireland must be respected. All available data suggests that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are content remaining within the United Kingdom and Brexit does not change that reality.
“Indeed this report, by recommending that Northern Ireland remains a part of the EU, undermines the Belfast Agreement and the principle of consent which underpins it. Any attempt to create a border up the middle of the Irish Sea is totally unacceptable, unwanted and unworkable.”
Read the report in full below.