The UK's withdrawal from the EU threatens equality of rights on the island of Ireland protected under the Good Friday Agreement, it has been warned.
A joint committee established under the peace accord to consider human rights issues on the island has insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the continuing North-South equivalence of rights, post-Brexit, as established under the 1998 Agreement.
The committee, which is made up of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, also called on the EU to seek a legal commitment to retain the Charter of Fundamental Rights in Northern Ireland after the UK leaves the European Union.
It has warned that without the "urgent implementation of safeguarding measures, the EU Withdrawal Agreement risks causing a difference in rights protections on a North-South basis, contrary to the Belfast Agreement".
A policy statement from the committee directed to the UK and Irish Governments outlines six requirements for the final EU Withdrawal Agreement to meet the obligations of the Good Friday Agreement.
- Ensure no diminution of rights within the Withdrawal Agreement;
- Safeguard the North-South equivalency of rights on an ongoing basis;
- Guarantee equality of citizenship within Northern Ireland;
- Protect border communities and migrant workers;
- Ensure evolving justice arrangements do not water down rights;
- Ensure continued right to participate in public life for EU citizens in Northern Ireland.
Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: "The peace process was built on a shared vision of equal rights and equal respect on the island of Ireland, as framed by the Belfast Agreement.
"We are now seeking assurances from the UK and Irish Governments that no rights are diluted as a result of Brexit."
Les Allamby, chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, warned: "Progress towards a lasting resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland has been grounded in the provisions of the 1998 Agreement.
We are concerned that the UK withdrawal from the EU threatens to undermine the Belfast Agreement by creating uncertainty for human rights protections within Northern Ireland.
He added: "We will continue to assist both the UK and the Irish governments as we move through this process, as we want the best deal for human rights for everyone in Northern Ireland going forward."