Tuesday, 2 October 2018
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
155. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which Irish citizens in Northern Ireland by virtue of their British citizenship will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits that come with citizenship of the United Kingdom after Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39873/18]
159. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which Irish citizens in Northern Ireland by virtue of their European Union citizenship will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits that come with citizenship of the European Union after Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40036/18]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 159 together.
The Government is acutely conscious of the potential impact on Northern Ireland of the UK decision to leave the European Union.
The means by which these obligations can be upheld by the UK requires further discussion between the EU and the UK. As in all other areas of the EU-UK negotiations, the operation of EU law will need to be respected.
The Government is determined to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, and the gains and benefits of the Peace Process, are protected for people on the island of Ireland, North and South.
In this regard, the Government appreciates the solidarity and support which has been shown by all of our EU partners in respect of Ireland’s unique issues and concerns.
On 8 December last, a Joint Report between the EU and UK negotiators was agreed, and this included important commitments in respect of the avoidance of a hard border on the island and protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, including in respect of North/South cooperation and the provisions on citizenship and fundamental rights.
In paragraph 52 of the Joint Report, the European Commission and the UK acknowledged that the Good Friday Agreement recognises the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British or both and be accepted as such. The Joint Report also confirms that the people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland. Both parties agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement should respect and be without prejudice to the rights, opportunities, and identity that come with European Union citizenship for such people, and that the next phase of negotiations would examine arrangements required to give effect to the ongoing exercise of, and access to, their EU rights, opportunities and benefits.
This position is recognised in the draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that is part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
Discussions on the rights of individuals also remain ongoing as part of the Phase 2 negotiations on issues related to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Further engagement is needed on which EU rights, opportunities or benefits can be exercised by the people of Northern Ireland who are Irish and therefore EU citizens, when they are resident in Northern Ireland, which will be outside the territory of the European Union after the UK departure.
As the UK leaves the European Union, there is an onus on its Government to ensure that it provides as necessary for the recognition in the Joint Report that the people of Northern Ireland who choose to identify as Irish, and therefore as citizens of the EU, can continue to enjoy the rights, opportunities and benefits of EU citizenship, including where they reside in Northern Ireland.
At the same time, there is an obligation on the UK Government under the Good Friday Agreement to uphold 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.
The Government will continue to engage intensively to ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to secure the gains of the Peace Process.