An expert in European Union law has warned any bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on trade and the border, post-Brexit, will be subject to veto by all the bloc’s members from Malta to Finland.
German Professor Dagmar Schiek, Jean Monnet Chair of EU Law and Policy at Queens University Belfast, told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that there will be wriggle room for an ex-EU United Kingdom to make bi-partisan deals with the Republic.
But she warned: “Under EU law, any future relation between the Republic of Ireland and the UK would be subject to agreement not only with the Republic of Ireland, but with the whole of the EU.”
The warning is contained in a report on the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland, which has been newly published by the Committee.
Amongst the reports concerns are that, due to its land border with the Republic, Northern Ireland is more dependent on trade with the European Union than Great Britain, and that the Common Travel Area (CTA), which has existed on the island since the 1920s, might become obsolete in the event of Brexit.
The report stated: “The European Union’s Brexit Taskforce told us that as the CTA is an agreement between two EU members and protected by EU Protocol (it is currently included in an annex to the Lisbon Treaty), it would no longer apply if the UK was outside the EU.
“Whilst the CTA predates British and Irish membership of the EU, it is not clear that its status in international law is sufficiently robust for it to bind EU members beyond their mutual obligations to each other in the event of a Brexit.”
The report also found that we are more dependent on trade with the European Union due to our insular Irish circumstances.
“This higher reliance on EU trade is largely accounted for by cross-border trade with the Republic of Ireland. In 2015, the Republic accounted for 61 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports to the EU and for 34 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total exports. It also accounted for 49 per cent of imports from the EU and 27 per cent of total imports,” the report says.
The report also warns that in any post-Brexit negotiations with Brussels or Strasbourg, Northern Ireland may well be an afterthought for the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne or Boris Johnson.
“In the event of a vote to leave the EU, it is imperative that Northern Ireland’s economic priorities, such as gaining a good deal for agricultural and manufactured goods, are given due prominence by the UK Government in any subsequent negotiations.
“However, the likelihood of this cannot be guaranteed,” the report states.