Provision to be made for north to rejoin EU in event of Irish unity

Posted By: April 29, 2017

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, April 29, 2017

EUROPEAN leaders are today expected to agree on measures that would enable the North to automatically rejoin the EU in the event of a united Ireland.

The leaders of the 27 post-Brexit member states are meeting in Brussels where they aim to adopt guidelines for managing the UK’s withdrawal formally.

Ahead of the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk warned the British government that it must settle the issues of “people, money, and Ireland” before negotiating its future relationship with the EU.

Provision for the north to automatically rejoin the union as part of a unified Ireland is based on the German precedent.

In 1990, when East Germany was unified with West Germany, no ‘Article 49’ application process was necessary for the former Soviet bloc state to join the EU.

Last month, British Brexit secretary David Davis gave a similar undertaking.

He said that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland – unlike an independent Scotland – would become part of the post-Brexit EU if a majority of its people voted for Irish unity in a future border poll.

While a slim majority of people across the UK voted in last June’s referendum to sever ties with Brussels, 56 per cent of people in The North voted to remain.

The Good Friday Agreement includes provision for the secretary of state to call a border poll if there is a reason to believe there is support for a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said yesterday that any discussions around the potential for a unified Ireland within the EU were to be welcomed.

“One would presume that the European Commission, recognizing the international treaty which is the Good Friday Agreement, would also recognize the right of people here to be part of a united Ireland if that’s what they vote for in a referendum on Irish unity,” he said.

“The question is this, will that be a note in the minutes, or will that be a directive as part of these guidelines?”

The Louth TD said the EU’s acknowledgment that the North could join the EU seamlessly in the event of a united Ireland was a “very modest… but a very welcome step in the right direction”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party’s MPs had pressed the British government to give an undertaking about EU membership in the event of Irish unification.

“As the tectonic plates of our constitutional landscape, in Ireland, Britain and Europe continue to shift, we should look to the Good Friday Agreement as an anchor of stability,” the Foyle MLA said.

“An endorsement of the principle of consent and the path to re-entry to the European Union as part of a United Ireland by EU leaders would give further weight to that anchor.”

Mr. Eastwood also said the move showed “we have strong friends in the European Union.”

However, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson criticized the EU leaders’ efforts to avoid an Article 49 application process if the north left the UK.

He repeated an assertion made in the European Parliament earlier this month that “Dublin does not speak for Northern Ireland.”

“Those who claim to respect the Belfast agreement need to realize that the future of Northern Ireland will be decided only by the people of Northern Ireland, not by those trying to play politics in Dublin and Brussels,” he said.