NI can have special status in Brexit deal, says legal report

Northern Ireland can be given special status in the UK's Brexit deal, an independent legal analysis commissioned by MEPs has advised.

Tuesday, 21st November 2017, 7:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:19 am
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson

The legal opinion, written by lawyers from the London-based Doughty Street Chambers, proposes three ways in which it says special status could be legally secured for the region as the UK continues negotiations on leaving the European Union.

The document was commissioned by a cross-party coalition of left-wing MEPs and launched by Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson at an event in Stormont.

It states: “There is now an urgent need for creative but realistic thinking about how Northern Ireland could and should be protected. From a legal perspective, special status inside the EU could be delivered in various ways.”

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The first model suggested would be for the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union, while the rest of the UK would suspend some customs regulations but Northern Ireland would retain them.

The second suggests that Northern Ireland could stay in the single market and customs union while the rest of the UK leaves them.

The third proposal, modelled on the fall of the Berlin wall and subsequent reunification of Germany, suggests that Northern Ireland would remain in the EU pending a border poll on a united Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, report author Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC said: “It is astonishing so few proposals have been put on the table about this. A key part of our report is to look at the legal and policy vacuum here, which is concerning.

“The UK government has an obligation to provide clarity on its own policy.”

Northern Ireland’s two nationalist parties, Sinn Fein and the SDLP, both back the region being granted special status within a Brexit deal.

However, many unionists including the DUP oppose this suggestion and have said they will only accept Northern Ireland being treated in the same way as the rest of the UK.