Call for Northern Ireland to have honorary EU status while staying in UK

Jane Morrice
Jane Morrice

More than 200 supporters have signed a petition calling for Northern Ireland to be given "honorary" European Union membership while remaining part of the UK.

Former European Commission head in Belfast Jane Morrice has said the country could become a European place of global peace-building.

Her petition called on Prime Minister Theresa May, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to grant the special status.

It has received 244 signatures of support.

The online campaign said: "The aim is to protect peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland; to ensure respect for the European rights and fundamental freedoms of Northern Ireland citizens; to guarantee freedom of movement between the UK and Ireland and to safeguard the spirit of good relations and cooperation between the UK, Ireland and the EU enshrined in the Good Friday Belfast Agreement."

Sinn Fein and the SDLP are campaigning for Northern Ireland to be given special status within the EU following Brexit.

The Democratic Unionists supported Leave in the referendum.

Honorary EU association would retain the status of Northern Ireland as part of the EU, part of the UK and part of the British/Irish and North/South Council in keeping with the Good Friday Belfast Agreement, the petition said.

It would respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland who voted to stay in the EU, keep the Irish border open and recognise the right of those who wish to retain EU citizenship as British and/or Irish citizens, it added.

"Associate EU membership should permit Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union, the single market and the common travel area and find ways to allow the freedom of movement of people, goods, capital and services East/West and North/South of the British Isles.

"It should guarantee support for farmers, fisheries, research, student exchange and other economic and social imperatives and ensure and extend funding for cross-community, cross border and global Peace outreach programmes."

Ms Morrice is a former member of the Women's Coalition, which participated in the peace talks which led to the 1998 peace accord.