Special Status for the ROI in the EU?

In my post on whether Northern Ireland could stay in or have “special status” in the EU, I concluded that at the very least Northern Ireland does already have special status because everyone has the option of taking up an EU (Irish) passport. I’m now considering whether Brexit may also result in EU “special status” for the Republic.

To be clear, this is a think-piece, not a proposal.

I’m ruling out the Republic of Ireland actually leaving the EU, as its economy is heavily reliant on foreign direct investment, and that in turn is based on Ireland providing a gateway into the EU’s single market for non-EU multi-nationals. However, the agri-food sector—among others—is highly reliant on trade with the UK, and there is already plenty of talk of seeking a special deal for the Republic as part of the overall EU-UK deal.

The Republic is one of just three remaining EU member states with opt-outs, including an opt-out from the Schengen Agreement and opt-outs from the area of freedom, security and justice, as well as the “Irish protocol” (guarantees on security, defence, ethical issues and taxation) that followed the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

It seems likely that the EU would prefer a situation where none of its members had opt-outs, and recent treaty changes—such as the obligation to eventually adopt the euro—underline this. As such, the EU’s default position is unfavourable to hybrid forms of membership.

But even if the EU and UK agree to preserve the Common Travel Arrangement (CTA) and the open border, it is hard to see how this could be implemented without any change in the Republic’s status within the EU. At the very least, any such deal would reinforce the Republic’s opt-out from the Schengen Agreement, which all of the other 26 members have signed up to. And the Republic likewise may have to secure new opt-outs in future, if further EU integration was to impinge on the UK-Ireland agreement.

In other words, any deal for Ireland won’t be a one-off, but it will be an issue to be renegotiated every time the EU makes major policy changes; just as the CTA had to be re-negotiated when the UK proposed immigration checks a few years ago.

The end result may be Northern Ireland staying closer to the EU than the rest of the UK—e.g. in areas related to agri-food—while the Republic may remain slightly removed from full EU integration—e.g. on Schengen.

This could involve Northern Ireland having to accept some checks on people or goods moving to Britain, while the EU might have to accept some checks between the Continent and the Republic of Ireland. In effect, we could have a “three-ply” border, rather than have all those checks occur at the land border.

There are hundreds of thousands of Irish-born living in the UK and UK-born living in the Republic. Existing family and business ties—not to mention shared language—may become more salient if the EU-UK deal looks like putting significant barriers between the Republic and the UK. Given the Republic’s initial rejection in referendums of the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, this might indicate public willingness for “associate membership” or some other EU special status, if that was the price of keeping an open border and the CTA.

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  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nat, have you encountered Brendan O’Leary’s suggestion last year just after the exit vote, the “Dalriada Document”?

    https://sluggerotoole.com/2016/07/26/olearys-dalriada-proposal-keeps-northern-ireland-and-scotland-in-the-uk-and-the-eu/

    Here is a link to the PDF of the document itself:

    http://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/sites/default/files/papers/The%20Dalriada%20Document.pdf

  • RoI already outside Schenghen. The CTA is largely a British construct based on 1949 Act. If the RoI does not negotiate special status with the EU 26 and with US corporate taxes looking set to fall, the 2/3 of trade outside of EU will be challenged, with little replacement visible. Whatever else, the current economic framework of the ROI looks to be at risk in medium to long term, and the ‘story term’ may be a very short period of time.

  • Roger

    The Republic, the Republic…the state has a name. It’s on the front cover of those Irish passports. It’s not the Republic of anything. It’s actual name is shorter than “the Republic” too.

    Presumably you’d agree as I do that UKNI has a name too and it’s not “the North”. You refrain from using that ridiculous term. You use its name instead. How about the same approach for “the Republic”?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Common Travel Area is already protected in the EU through the Amsterdam treaty, it has nothing to do with freight or areas like agri-food and the UK is dumbing down the argument if it thinks it does.

    The Lisbon and Amsterdam opt-outs respect the Republic of Ireland’s diversity, plus the realpolitik of its position within the EU, the UK departure changes nothing with regards to the EU on this.

    Schengen is a non-EU agreement … just as Norway is bound by the Schengen Treaty but isn’t bound by the EU, the Republic of Ireland isn’t bound by the Schengen Treaty but is bound by the EU.

    Any additional special arrangements on the Republic of Ireland should be there to address freedom of movement of goods, freedom of movement of services and freedom of movement of capital … the people situation is quite simple.

    The Republic of Ireland will not patrol EU nationals working inside it for the sake of the United Kingdom, and will not patrol British nationals working inside it for the sake of the European Union.

    This is very simple to sell to the EU, since numerous states have non-EU borders with some free movement, whether they are Schengen or not.

    The fact of the matter is the Republic of Ireland cannot adopt customs conformity with the United Kingdom, and frankly the United Kingdom is not even offering that option.

    The four new checks between the Republic of Ireland and Continental Europe will be

    * Continental European freight being transferred to Republic of Ireland through the UK

    * Republic of Ireland freight being transferred to Continental Europe through the UK

    * British freight being transferred to Continental Europe through an Irish backdoor.

    * British people moving from a CTA nation to a Schengen nation.

    The capital and services issues will be dealt with by UK and EU red tape and North/South red tape where appropriate.

  • Roger

    Enlighten us about the 1949 Act you refer to? I’m interested.

  • Roger

    Kevin, not a single one of the treaties you mention refer to a “Republic of” Ireland you know.

    By “Northern Irish” red tape I think you mean U.K. red tape or should we call it British Kingdom red tape?

  • Kevin Breslin

    He does realise any deal between the UK and EU has to pass a referendum in the Republic of Ireland?
    The Common Travel Area is also protected by the Amsterdam Treaty, so changing that treaty would require a referendum in the Republic of Ireland.

    To enforce any trade barriers between the UK and ROI, and I would imagine these will be minor but suboptimal to the EU, like customs and tarrifs (Sweden-Norway arrangement) the UK and ROI would have to co-operate on technology to implement these.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m clarifying the matter in colloquial conversation to an audience who is likely to see Ireland to mean the island of Ireland.

    My apologies to those who prefer to use Irish Republic rather than Republic of Ireland, or indeed those who prefer the term the Twenty Six counties.

  • Fear Éireannach

    “As such, the EU’s default position is unfavourable to hybrid forms of membership.”

    Having lost one member overboard, recent discussion in the EU has been a bit more favourable to variable geometry. I think Ireland can make some common cause with Scandinavian nations on this matter.

  • Roger

    How could a Lisbon treaty opt out relate to an island and not a jurisdiction? How could an island, a piece of geography and not a subject of international law, be bound by a treaty? Since when do islands patrol borders? Do lakes or mountains patrol borders? Give your audience some credit. They speak English. Words with more than one meaning are v common in English. There was nothing to be “clarified” by the extra 3 words.

  • Nat O’Connor

    The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1948/act/22/enacted/en/print.html
    Section (2) ‘It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland.’

    Both ‘Ireland’ and ‘Republic of Ireland’ are technically correct descriptions of the state, as is ‘Éire’.
    As you well know, the names of places are political in NI, so I follow the example of all-Ireland think-tank NERI in using the most neutral terms Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
    That doesn’t suit everyone, but neither does Derry-Londonderry and the other compromises.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Roger disrupts threads regularly with this pedantic rubblsh. Don’t feed the troll.

  • Nat O’Connor

    Thanks

  • Roger

    No. Eire and Ireland are names, the former in a non-English language. Republic of Ireland is not a name. It’s a description. There is nothing neutral on insisting on calling Ireland something other than its name. That was a tack the U.K. Alone took until 1998. Ireland is the name its Government and Constitution have used and insisted on for 80 years. It’s just as disrespectful as insisting on calling Northern Ireland “the North of Ireland”. Irish Government’s stance on what Ireland’s name is and what should be used is very long standing. Names are indeed political. In Ireland, Northern Ireland, everywhere. Ireland’s name warrants no less acceptance than any other jurisdiction’s. Neutrality indeed.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Is this what really matters in your life?

  • Basically says Irish citizens are basically not regarded for purposes of UK as ‘foreign’. Basically, have all the rights of British bar citizenship. Essentially establishes in law the foundation of CTA for all those born in British Isles. Whatever else, the CTA is a British construct and not subject to international treaty or agreement, not even the agreement of the Irish Republic and nothing to do with the EU.

  • Paul Culloty

    Hah, you’ve tripped yourself up on your own pedantry! Unless NI is a Kingdom in and of itself, then the correct abbreviation is UKGBNI. Similarly, uness you somehow consider NI to somehow be a Federation of 11 Council Areas, than how could it possibly be a UK?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Northern Irish red-tape would mean anything from the Assembly. Say if there were separate protocols for this region from the rest of the UK.

    I mean legally there could be, I’m not ruling it out. We introduced plastic bag taxes before GB, so arguably for some that would be considered a bureaucratic burden.

  • grumpy oul man

    Its united kingdom not british kingdom.
    If your going to start off with a bit of pedantry then it looks better if you dont get a name wrong later on.

  • grumpy oul man

    Islands patrol borders all the time only by boat not jeep!

  • grumpy oul man

    You lecture someone about using the republic of Ireland because you claim its inaccurate and then use this UKNI nonsense.
    Care to shows us the document or constitutional clause that gives NI the title UKNI.

  • Devil Éire

    Names are indeed political. In Ireland, Northern Ireland, everywhere. Ireland’s name warrants no less acceptance than any other jurisdiction’s.

    An admirable consistency, but I’m curious what your stance would be towards someone who invented a totally new name for Northern Ireland: ‘United Kingdom Northern Ireland’?

  • Barneyt

    I only heard of the one six counties. There are 19 more? 🙂

  • Barneyt

    Well norn arners use the term “the south” very freely I believe

  • You’d better ask Henry Kissinger.

  • Roger

    I would think he/she is missing a comma…United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region would probably put it better.

  • Roger

    I fully respect that the name of the UK region is Northern Ireland. Its name isn’t UKNI. UKNI is simply an acronym for United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region.

    I wasn’t the first to come up with it. I saw someone here use it and I have to say I thought it made perfect sense. Many here speak of the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland region as if it were the equivalent to Ireland or France….UKNI is a convenient way of putting it in context: a UK region.

  • Roger

    Sounds a bit unlikely but ok, fair enough.

  • Roger

    UKNI is an acronym for United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region. I explain a bit of why it seems a useful acronym in a post here just now.

  • Roger

    I see; you’re referring, as I suspected, to the Ireland Act of the UK which doesn’t mention anything about a Common Travel Area, which is a very loose construct and existed years before the Ireland Act

  • Devil Éire

    So would you say that ‘United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region’ (or, ‘UK,NIr’, let’s say) is a name or a description?

  • Roger

    UK is an initialism, imprecise indeed, for it doesn’t include all the initials in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…To date, I have not seen anyone suggest we ought to use UKoGBaNI rather than UK.

    UKNI is an initialism too, imprecise indeed, if you like and sticking to acronyms for UKoGBaNI, NI.

    It’s not a name or a description. It’s an initialism, just like UK.

  • Devil Éire

    UKNI is an initialism too, imprecise indeed, if you like and sticking to acronyms for UKoGBaNI, NI.

    Well I’m glad you’ve stopped claiming ‘UKNI’ (or whatever you’re calling it now) is an acronym. ‘NI’ is not actually an acronym either, I’m sure you will admit. (Other people’s hobby horses can be irritating, can’t they?).

    It’s not a name or a description. It’s an initialism, just like UK.

    Yes it’s an initialism, but it’s not at all like ‘UK’ since that is an abbreviation for the name of the state, whereas ‘UK,NIr’ is just something that you made up.

    And because you use the term to name or describe Northern Ireland, it most certainly is a name or a description.

    Since you grant yourself latitude to use an invented abbreviation to describe Northern Ireland, it seems inconsistent and peevish to badger others for using informal versions of constitutionally-defined descriptions like ‘Irish Republic’ for the ‘Republic of Ireland’.

  • grumpy oul man

    So if your using a geotag that somebody made and has no historical or legal effect please stop being so dammed pedantic about the geotags that others use.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And thank you, Nat, for your own fine “think piece.”

    The passport issue is an important issue, not only because it still opens up the EU to anyone here who holds an Irish passport, no matter how punitive the terms of England’s negotiated exit, but because it flags an important sovereignty issue with those born here having the right to be citizens of an EU country. At the very least this implies a liminal Irish political sovereignty over apportion of our population.

  • Roger

    You caught me out on acronyms v. initialisms. Thanks for that. I’ve now learned the distinction. I agree with you, NI is not an acronym either. Same lesson learned applies.

    UK is an abbreviated initialism, what I’d called imprecise but I agree with you that abbreviated is a better word than imprecise. UKNI is the exact same.

    You made up UK, NIr. I’ve never used it until right now. I don’t use UKoGBaNI either by the way.

    On the point around the “r”, it’s really an optional flourish. “United Kingdom, Northern Ireland” is perfectly clear too. With or without “region” added at the end. The flourish further emphasises the nature of the jurisdiction in question.

    There could be some inconsistency and peevishness in play here, I grant you that too. On Slugger I find widespread use of the proper name, “Northern Ireland” which I welcome. However I find it combined with use of terms like “Republic of Ireland” or the fairly ridiculous “the Republic” etc. I find that rather inconsistent and peevish too. I encourage others to be consistent and less peevish. If they are going to use the correct name of one jurisdiction, I encourage them to do the same for the other whose name is a nice round short one. No need for Republics of anything. It has a one word name.

  • Roger

    I said UKNI is an acronym.
    I should properly have said it is an initialism. This has been pointed out to me.

  • Roger

    Possible that a referendum could be required….though I doubt it.
    International agreements only require referendum approval in Ireland in limited circumstances.

  • grumpy oul man

    so stop pulling people up about what they call places if your willing to use something as silly and clumsy as UKNI.

  • Roger

    I don’t think it’s silly or clumsy…

  • Kevin Breslin

    An EU Treaty change requires a referendum. Trade terms can be discussed with the Commission, but any changes to the internal legal terms requires a referendum.

    Who’s more likely to remove the Common Travel Area, the Republic of Ireland through a public referendum, or the Conservatives through a clandestine Royal decree.

  • Roger

    I think you are wrong on some of this stuff:
    – EU Treaty change requires a referendum? Not all EU Treaty changes. A Treaty changing, for example, the number of seats allocated to member states in EU Parl. now UK has left, would not, I think, require a referendum. It’s not clear to me that there will be anything more substantive than tidy up like that involved and so there may well be no requirement for a referendum. Indeed, I’d be grateful if others with knowledge, waded in here….I wonder is there even a need for ANY treaty change. The UK leaves, perhaps the Treaties are then read as if references to UK were redundant including its allocation of seats etc. with everything left the same? I don’t know the answer. I find that quite likely. I don’t think the UK leaving means the EU cannot continue unless its 27 states agree on something. I think a Treaty is optional, and its term, like I say, may well be of a kind requiring no referendum in Ireland.
    -The so called Common Travel Area, an extremely loose administrative arrangement, cannot be changed by referendum in Ireland….It’s not subject to anything in the constitution of Ireland.

  • grumpy oul man

    There is only one NI so the uk bit is not only misleading (implying that NI is a kingdom) and unnecessary so it just silly.
    Secondly UKNI takes longer to say and type than the accepted NI. So clumsy.
    Now i understand your trying to make some sort of point about ownership but its pretty feeble and opens you up to derision when you get all pedantic with others about names.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In terms of the Irish Constitution the creation of a new treaty would require a constitutional ammendment, and a non-technical change to a treaty will require a new one. Since the Common Travel Area is included in the Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaty, my opinion is that any EU demand for the ROI to leave it would not be considered non-technical.

  • Roger

    Ireland enters and amends treaties all the time. It’s super rare that one requires a referendum. There’s been absolutely no suggestion so far EU will require Ireland to stop participating in ‘CTA’ arrangements either.

  • Roger

    The necessity aspect is interesting. I’ve found it necessary to remind others that Northern Ireland is a UK region. It’s odd that after 96 years that should be so. Similarly it’s odd that after 80 years one should need to remind others what Ireland’s name is. But I do. The former bit is the origin of my use of UKNI. It’s actually more about emphasizing status (a non sovereign region) than ‘ownership’ as you put it.

  • grumpy oul man

    So merely a outpourings of your insecurity! Got it.

  • Devil Éire

    You made up UK, NIr. I’ve never used it until right now.

    You said that whoever uses ‘UKNI’ is ‘probably missing a comma. This suggests that ‘UK,NI’ would be an improvement on ‘UKNI’. Further, you added that ‘United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region would probably put it better’, so the next logical step, even if you haven’t already made it, is to abbreviate this to ‘Uk,NIr’. (I am just joining the dots that you have already set out).

    On Slugger I find widespread use of the proper name, “Northern Ireland” which I welcome. However I find it combined with use of terms like “Republic of Ireland” or the fairly ridiculous “the Republic” etc.

    The term ‘Republic of Ireland’, as many others have pointed out, is a legal description of the state, while ‘the Republic’ is a colloquial version of this and, as such, is certainly not ‘ridiculous’. Particularly when used on a forum which aims to discuss matters relating to Northern Ireland, so the context is always clear. Indeed, one sometimes needs to disambiguate between the island and the state, so the description can be useful. All these terms exist and are in common usage. If one is looking for ridiculousness, one need hardly look much further than the awkward construct ‘United Kingdom Northern Ireland’ (UKNI) or, even worse, ‘United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region’ (UK,NIr).

    I encourage others to be consistent and less peevish.

    Since peevishness is defined as being ‘easily irritated, especially by unimportant things’, with your constant haranguing of people to stop using established (if colloquial) terms and instead to use a ridiculous one of your own invention, you are the main culprit here.

  • Roger

    On initialisms, I think we’d only going over the same ground if I said more…and UK, NIr is your wonderful invention not mine.

    Names might seem unimportant to you…but not to me. Ireland is a well established name too.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well they can’t under EU and Irish law as it stands, both need to be amended to break the CTA from the “non-GB side”, only British law can threaten it in a simpler manner.

    You’re right this is possible if the UK takes a sane perspective that the free movement of people in the entire island of Ireland is not so massive to require the sort of extreme actions demanded in South East England.

    The issue is customs, freight and that’s a major nightmare the government dare not speak the name of.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Should I refer you to the John Taylor UUP MEP speech in the EU Parliament where he says that “if the Irish Republic is referred to as Ireland, then where is Northern Ireland?… Donegal?”

  • Roger

    I’m not sure how that a bearing on things but thanks for the anecdote.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m fairly liberal with people who are fairly liberal with me, and you have been fairly liberal with me. I genuinely think I’m adding clarity not taking it away here.

  • Devil Éire

    …UK, NIr is your wonderful invention not mine.

    I simply did you the service of providing the initialism for your own (rather less than wonderful) invention. Credit where it’s due.

    Names might seem unimportant to you…but not to me.

    Self-serving twaddle. The correct use of names is actually not so important to you, since you persist in using an invented term: ‘United Kingdom Northern Ireland’ (UKNI). So you are in no position to badger others about their own naming conventions.