Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement. June 28, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Here’s something that is worth a look in relation to the impacts of Brexit on the GFA – and check out yesterday’s Dáil debate on same too (I’ve a few more thoughts on that – anyone care to guess whose contribution was closest to my own position?). It’s from the Telegraph, a specially commissioned piece. While it suggests fears of the peace process being undermined outright may be misplaced it does continue that:
The EU has played an active role in facilitating the peace process by encouraging much better community relations through its unique peace programme that was designed to support peace and reconciliation in the border region. Peace IV has just been approved and has earmarked some €269m to this end until 2020.
What happens to that if the UK exits the EU pre-2020? How does it work? According to Matt Cooper in the SBP:
The North is an enormous net beneficiary of EU financial aid, not just through the CAP, but for all sorts of educational and cross-community projects too, and for research and innovation. The assumption being made by the DUP that the British exchequer, which already subsides the region to a ridiculous degree, would step in and replace the absent funds ay be somewhat outlandish. Political instability could result from a deep recession.
Moreover, and again from the Telegraph, this is key:
The Good Friday agreement was predicated on both Ireland and the United Kingdom being members of the European Union and the devolution settlement created a number of cross border institutions to facilitate political interaction in areas of common concern, both north and south. In the event of a Brexit such cross-border institutions would find it somewhat more difficult to work across the border and the sustainability of other existing EU programmes would need to be revisited.
A Brexit would also deprive both the British and Irish governments of a regular and neutral venue, in the form of the European Council, whose meetings have provided the prime ministers of both Ireland and the United Kingdom to enhance Anglo-Irish relations and to discuss Northern Ireland.
And the author, Dr. Lee McGowan concludes:
The implications of a Brexit for Northern Ireland form a unique angle in the British government’s approach to the EU question.
There’s more. Commentary about Dublin is explicit. The government there does not know how this will pan out. The Financial Times notes that:
…the biggest challenge for Dublin is how Brexit will affect Northern Ireland. The province voted by a clear but not resounding majority — 56 to 44 per cent — to remain in the EU. The Good Friday Agreement that cemented the peace settlement in the province in 1998 after the Troubles is in essence predicated on the Republic and the UK being in the EU — there is a specific reference in the text to the two countries as “EU partners”.
What does the GFA say?
Government will be responsible for action in its own jurisdiction.
8. Notwithstanding the above, each institution will publish an annual
report on its operations. In addition, th e two Governments and the partiesin the Assembly will convene a conference 4 years after the agreement comes into effect, to review and report on its operation.
AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND AND
THE GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND
The British and Irish Governments: Welcoming the strong commitment to the Agreement reached on 10th
April 1998 by themselves and other pa rticipants in the multi-party talks and set out in Annex 1 to this Agreement (hereinafter “the Multi-Party Agreement”); Considering that the Multi-Party Ag reement offers an opportunity for a new beginning in relationships within
Northern Ireland, within the island of Ireland and between the pe
oples of these islands; Wishing to develop still further th e unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation be tween their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union
There’s more. In relation to the North South Ministerial Council:
(iii) in an appropriate format to c onsider institutional
or cross-sectoral matters (including in relation to the
EU) and to resolve disagreement.
17. The Council to consider the Europ ean Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.
31. Terms will be agreed between appropriate Assembly representatives and the Government of the United Kingdom to ensure effective coordination and input by Ministers to national policy-making, including on EU issues.
In relation to North-South co-operation and implementation:
8. Relevant EU Programmes such as SPPR, INTERREG, Leader II and their successors.
The British Irish Council:
5. The BIC will exchange information, discuss, consult and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual
interest within the competence of the relevant Administrations. Suitable issues for early discussion in the BIC could include transport links, agricultural issues, environmental issues, cultural issues, health issues, education issues and approaches to EU issues. Suitable arrangements to be made for practical co-operation on agreed policies.
That reference in the actual text of the GFA is hugely significant. The bilateral relationships that predated accession to the EEC between Ireland and the UK may not stand in the context of a Brexit due to the responsibilities and obligations on this state in regard of EU membership and indeed the nature of the relationship the UK strikes with the EU. This is a very real fear that has been articulated elsewhere.
What this suggests is that the answer to the question what about Brexit and the GFA is – truthfully, we do not know yet but that it is going to be at the very least problematic. That it was as McGowan notes ‘predicated on both [states] being members of the EU’ is indicative of significant issues ahead. How serious those issues may be remains to be seen. But a sanguine, nothing to see here, attitude is clearly entirely mistaken.
Of course for those who don’t agree with the GFA or see it as an impediment none of this will carry any weight – but the GFA was underpinned by referendums on this island and is as legitimate an expression of the will of the people of the island as the Brexit referendum was of (some of) the peoples in Britain. The caveat on the latter is that both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted for Remain with all the consequent issues that raises in regards to sovereignty and self-determination, particularly in the context of the nature of devolution and particularly in Scotland.
…three jurisdictions, notionally ‘British’ that are not in the EU – IoM, Jersey and Guernsey, and that, while England and Wales are much, much bigger, the idea of multinational states that have portions in and portions out of the EU is not constitutionally impossible.
Does that have any impact on the above (or in relation to Scotland?). Possibly. Possibly. But it seems to me we’re now at a point where the unusual is being reached for because… well, because no one knows.