On Brexit, the Irish are caught between two opposing forces, but at least they’re showing more invention and concern about the North than the British and northerners themselves

The ritual opening shots in the Brexit campaign must leave the Republic feeling caught in a trap in a dialogue of the deaf between two opposing forces. So much, so sadly predictable, in spite of all the warm words- although the crudeness of the exchanges is perhaps surprising.

It’s pretty clear that the Irish government don’t favour the aggressive opening approach by the Commission and confirmed this morning by its chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

On the detail of the FT’s latest on a British bill escalating to euro 100 billion, the Irish demur. In their strategy document they assess the UK net contribution to the budget in 2015 as euro 14 billion, adding that up to date figures will be available  in 2019. This implies that the escalated settlement figure of 100 billion reported in the FT to be paid before trade talks begin that year, is well over the top, even if it includes  some ongoing costs.

It’s also pretty clear  that the rigid separation and sequencing   of “settling the accounts” and citizenship, only then to be followed by trade, does not match up to the EU’s own professed aim of including Ireland in their priorities. For without discussing the trade implications how can you achieve anything like an open border?  Ireland will politely challenge Commission supremacy and has already planned to be involved at every stage of the negotiations, as outlined in the Irish government’s strategy paper published yesterday. Pat Leahy in the Irish Times reflects on the opening shots of a long campaign.

  The strategy emphasises that the final decisions on the EU side will be taken by the member states acting together, rather than by the European Commission. The document warns of a “worst-case scenario” where the UK leaves the EU in two years without an agreement, and trade between the two reverts to World Trade Organisation rules.

As Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes says

These reports of a €100 billion bill are utterly unhelpful. Putting such an over-inflated bill on the British could leave talks at a standstill from the start,” he said.

“It is clear that the UK will have to pay a substantial bill but there needs to be fairness. The Commission could be setting the stage for a very dangerous stand-off and Ireland stands to lose if the talks simply fail at the first hurdle.

The British warmly agree. 

According to reports, Brussels was plotting to limit Ms May’s Brexit discussions to direct meetings with the European Commission’s lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Such a move would run contrary to Ms May’s claim that she would be negotiating directly on the terms of Brexit with fellow leaders.

Mr Davis said Britain had “ every right” to attend every European Council meeting and will exercise its right.

“Just as we are obeying the laws of the Union, exactly to the letter, we are also going to expect our rights…The idea that somehow one side of the negotiation can dictate how the other side runs a negotiation is laughable.”


The Irish strategy document itself is a statement of aims and offers little by way of incisive political analysis of thorny issues , like  how much can be achieved  bilaterally  between the two governments and how Irish/EU  citizen rights  can be guaranteed  inside a Brexit Northern Ireland.

But what is most remarkable about the document is that the Irish government are putting much more thought into the implications for the North than the British government, at least in public.

They will argue that the Republic could need special EU support to cope with the economic shock from Brexit  and for a  substantial  transitional period after Britain leaves the EU but before a new trade deal between Britain and Europe is finalised, to try to minimise the disruption of Brexit.

As expected in such a document,  Dublin puts a positive face on the British position  towards Ireland and minimises their differences  over the idea of special status for the North  It notes without comment the British aim of negotiating “a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement” instead of seeking Single Market access  and “some type of association with the customs union…. a key concern to Ireland.”

They seem to be pinning their hopes on the British aim of “avoiding a cliff edge” and favour lengthy transitional arrangements” that implicitly – who knows? – might become permanent.

On the border..

The avoidance of a hard border will require flexibility and creativity on the part of both the UK and the EU. Within the EU, Ireland will make clear its expectation that there will need to be a political and not just a technical solution ….The closer the trading relationship between the UK and the EU, including Ireland, the les challenging the task of avoiding a hard border should be. All possible avenues in the EU acquis will have to be explored to facilitate free movement of people, goods and services on the island and it may be necessary to consider additional measures.

  On EU peace and other funding after 2020.

 Work beginning on successor programmes under the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) also needs to ensure that they will allow for continued participation by Northern Ireland in a range of EUfunded programmes with a cross-border dimension.

 On citizenship

Under the Good Friday Agreement the people of Northern Ireland have the right to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British or both. This means that people in Northern Ireland are not required for example, to self-identify as British in accessing public services. This arrangement should not be disturbed by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

The withdrawal agreement should contain no impediment to Irish citizens in Northern Ireland accessing programmes and services across the Union to which they are eligible, including those as may be provided for in any arrangements on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

( But  how are the rights affected of those from NI and GB  who self –identify as British and  who wish to live and work in the Republic?)    


Continuation of the Common Travel Area after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU is a priority for both the Irish and the UK Governments. Ireland will remain outside the Schengen area given this stated objective of maintaining the CTA.


Annex 2: The All-Island Civic Dialogue – Sectoral Concerns 46 Agri-Food 46 Seafood 46 Prepared Consumer Foods, Horticulture, Cereals, Tillage, Animal Feed, Forestry 46 Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation 46 Energy 47 Transport 47 Tourism and Hospitality 47 Further Education & Training 47 Higher Education & Research 48 Primary and Secondary Education 48 Human Rights under the Good Friday Agreement 48 Heritage, Culture & Rural Ireland 48 Children and Young People 49 Social Insurance, Social Welfare Rights and Entitlements and Social Welfare Pensions


Where is the northern voice in all this? And the British voice for that matter?





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  • Ciarán

    ‘As Fine Gael *MEP Brian Hayes says…’

  • Paul Hagan

    Today the Commission adopted a recommendation to the Council to open the Article 50 negotiations with the UK. The recommendation includes draft negotiating directives:
    “What have you included in the recommendation concerning Northern Ireland?
    The European Union remains committed to the Good Friday Agreement and will work towards minimising the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU on the peace process. This means looking at innovative and creative solutions in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. This will be a priority in the negotiations.”

    I think getting number 4 is quite a good score. Full text here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-1183_en.htm

  • CTA is a convention underpinned by 1949 Act of Parliament and continued co-operation such as this http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/ireland-and-britain-share-passenger-data-in-response-to-europe-attacks-391624.html so not clear who is going to change this. Not even dependent on EU. On the starter for three, RoI seems indeed to have organised a rock and hard place to sit between. The border is something that will impact subject to the scale of trade restrictions that are imposed by the EU. The argument for the RoI is with the EU. It is the EU that will impose restrictions if a free trade deal is not agreed. It is for the RoI to work out where it needs to be and not become merely a pawn in Brussels play book http://www.thedissenter.co.uk/488/make-your-mind-up-time/

  • Brian O’Neill

    After brexit can Ireland and the UK not just do a free trade deal directly and life continues? Or as an EU member is ireland prevented from doing any direct trade deals?

  • Fear Éireannach

    That’s the whole point of the EU, it is a common market, you cannot do deals with bits of it.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The ROI or indeed the EU hasn’t proposed any change, the problems are entirely caused by its delinquent neighbour, Britain. Your ridiculous arguments are like saying that if my neighbour deliberately burns down their house then I am at fault for not having a sprinkler system to prevent damage to mine.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The British generally are delinquent, the House of Lords are doing something

  • Enda

    Ireland and the UK have always either been outside of the EEC with the CTA in place, or within the EEC with the CTA in place. There hasn’t been a time when one was in and one was out with the CTA in place. I’m not sure how trade or movement will work in that circumstance. One way for the movement of people would be for both the UK and Ireland to join the Schengen area, but I don’t see that happening.

  • Brian Walker

    In a word, yes Brian

  • Devil Éire

    Where is the northern voice in all this?

    With fingers jammed solidly into ears, the northern voice of Unionists, at least, (including many Remainers) is chanting ‘Republican agenda. Republican agenda. Republican agenda. Republican agenda….’.

    This means that people in Northern Ireland are not required for example, to self-identify as British in accessing public services.

    This is an interesting gambit. As I previously noted:

    I had thought that [those born in Northern Ireland and currently holding only Irish passports] were protected by the GFA, but on re-reading the relevant paragraph (below), I note that the agreement made no promises in this regard (as it only affirmed the right of dual Irish and British citizenship, not Irish only). The relevant use of the word ‘or’ applies to the woolier concept of identity, not citizenship.

    [The British and Irish governments will] recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.

    With Brexit looming, the Irish government appears to be trying to tie down this loose end.

  • Brian O’Neill

    I know I am a bit slow on the uptake but holy moly that’s going to be a mess.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well the only Northerners who don’t seem to be concerned are the DUP who think the rest of us are Chicken Little for not jumping on some British nationalist bandwagon.

    If we were … at least we’d have warm sheds.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The variable geometry will have to be on the NI end.

  • NotNowJohnny

    No. It’s all going to be grand. Apparently.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “Such a move would run contrary to Ms May’s claim that she would be negotiating directly on the terms of Brexit with fellow leaders.”

    This is just more delusion. The EU have made it very clear that the negotiations will be done by their Brexit team – not between leaders. And if they don’t want to meet her (and who would, really), they won’t. Just more insubstantial bluster from May. Of course there will be more too, but it’s all just puff. The EU have the upper hand, and if it suits them they will put her exactly in her place, in the dustbin of history.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It’s not even Britain, but 30-odd-% of voters plus the loony fringe of the tory party. Apparently they have some kind of Freudian death-wish, disguised as a return to the not-so-glorious past, when red double-decker buses ruled the world, and the Gloster Meteor was the second jet fighter in the world. Of course the Germans got there first, but don’t mention that.

    Hmmmm. Yaas, when I waas in Poona, old chap, hmmm, where was I now, ahh, mmmm, yaas, mmm the good old empire what? eh? Another gin, what? eh? Yaas, mmm mumble mumble. Stout chap, that Dirty Maggie May, eh? What? Have they taken her away?

    “Oh dirty Maggie May they have taken her away
    And she never walk down Lime Street any more
    Oh the judge he guilty found her
    For robbing a homeward bounder
    That dirty no good robbin’ Maggie May”

    “Hic! Too much gin” he sobbed into his hankie, “These swine are ruinin’ the country” (pun intended). Aaaargh – my heart – blug! Collapse of stout empire.

  • Smithborough

    But if the neighbour’s house is burning and spreading into your property it’s also better to spend your time getting out the hose to minimise the damage before working out who is to blame and telling him that you told him so.

    The Irish government is trying to do something; northern nationalism is just whinging.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Is their goose cooked?

  • Philip Murphy

    Despite our strong trade links with the UK we will not be sacrificing our membership of an economic bloc of 500 millions. We’ll have to muddle through this.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Indeed, the Irish government seem to be getting the help of the other neighbours which is very much needed. SF is the biggest party of northern nationalism and are largely useless, they represent the talk without action part of the provisional movement, the can-do element having retired years ago.

  • lizmcneill

    Apparently Merkel had to explain this to Trump multiple times when she visited.

  • Smithborough

    If the European Commission adopts the Greece playbook with the UK then Ireland will get hurt in the cross fire & Northern Ireland will come off worst of all.

  • Smithborough

    Ireland is sensibly trying to ensure that the rights of Irish citizens in NI don’t get swept away with the rights of EU nationals in general. They are looking for guarantees from both the UK & the EU for this.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa
  • Sprite

    I think the point is that in terms of birth right, if you are born in Northern Ireland you automatically possess British citizenship so should you choose to exercise the right to Irish citizenship provided under the GFA you will have dual citizenship.

  • Devil Éire

    if you are born in Northern Ireland you automatically possess British citizenship so should you choose to exercise the right to Irish citizenship provided under the GFA you will have dual citizenship.

    Yes, it is clear that, under the GFA, dual British and Irish citizenship is accepted.

    However, the Irish government appears to believe that whether one self-identifies as either British or Irish could have consequences (post Brexit) when accessing public services in Northern Ireland. I am at a loss to understand how this could be the case unless it were possible to express this ‘self-identification’ through an exclusive Irish (and not British-only or dual British+Irish) citizenship. Otherwise, self-identity would remain a private choice, invisible to the administration of public services.

  • james

    Northerners? Who on earth is this referring to?

  • james

    Being a Fermanagh man, I’ve always considered myself a South-Western feller.

  • james

    British passport. Seemed the obvious choice, being that I’m from the UK.

  • james

    A wurzel?

  • james

    Nearer than I’d like to Belcoo, yes.