“The UK outside the EU places the North of Ireland in a less favourable location to attract EU or Americian investment”

Referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union – Titanic Count Centre, Belfast: Press Eye

BREXIT is not going to be finalised, or go away, for some considerable time.

The referendum, in June 2016, was presented as a moment to make an important decision: in or out? Now, in June 2019, through an unravelling series of decisions and delayed decisions, there is a growing appreciation that the referendum Brexit decision has become a complex journey with no quick end in sight and has an unfolding agenda.

The critical Brexit negotiations have barely begun. The decision by the UK Government on whether to leave the EU looked straightforward: events have shown that leaving the EU creates a wide range of options and decisions. Leave and cancel all existing links, as developed over 40+ years, or leave whilst retaining some of the links where there are mutually agreed benefits. The referendum debate was (and is) ambiguous.

The referendum was followed by UK-EU negotiations on the Withdrawal, now in a draft 500 page agreement, on protection of citizens’ rights, the financial contribution due from the UK, and an aspiration about the operation of the land border on this island.

Controversially, the UK and EU agreed to defer the complex and necessary negotiations on the future UK-EU relations, post-Brexit, until after the UK had left. That decision, attempting to decouple leaving and the form of the continuing relationship, means that the full consequences of leaving the EU still cannot be adequately assessed or predicted.

The UK has decided to leave the EU but, because there is no clarity on what the future UK-EU relationship will be, this leaves huge uncertainty about a critical range of questions; economic, social, environmental and political. No surprise, then, that different groups are arguing about the uncertainties in ways which have become epitomised in multiple versions of soft and hard Brexit.

Then, in an extra Irish dimension, the attempt to agree a special guarantee, to protect against damage to the economic integration of trade and business across the Irish land border, has become mired in confusion about how to prevent a ‘hard border’ on this island. Logically, frictionless trading from Northern Ireland into Ireland is desirable but cannot be a frictionless back-door to the larger EU market place.

Instead of arguing in terms of frictionless trade conditions, the negotiators have developed ‘back-stop’ concessions. The term has been poorly presented and misrepresented. The ‘back-stop’ arrangements have been presented in a seriously distorted form and the ambition by London and Brussels/Dublin to devise a favourable mechanism to prevent a hard Irish border has been widely misunderstood. An opportunity to have the best of a special arrangement has mutated into an apparent obstacle to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The evolution of Brexit has been made more difficult by attempts to popularise the argument with the easy jingo of ‘taking back control’, bringing Government back to UK institutions, and keeping more of our own money (with millions extra for the NHS). This was supplemented by distorted reporting of the impact of Brexit on the economy. The argument that leaving the EU has not damaged the economy can be countered with the acknowledgement that the full cost of leaving cannot be seen until the process has developed much further. So far, the UK has not been faced with the real disadvantages of Brexit.

The Brexit sequence gave the electorate an apparently simple choice without any credible attempt to detail what a vote to leave might mean. The merits of being part of the larger EU Common Market were more persuasive in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland majority vote to remain was arguably a decision based on a mixture of economics and politics. The suggestion that Brexit necessarily meant a commercial border ‘down the Irish Sea’ developed even though this conclusion was not implicit in UK-EU analysis. Arguably, the risks of a border down the Irish Sea have been seriously overstated.

Looking back over the sequence of events and decisions, personal reflections would be:

The UK decision to hold a referendum was premature
The referendum was conducted on too superficial arguments
The small majority was too small to sustain a disputed constitutional outcome
The UK Government has not adequately prepared for the post-withdrawal phase
The UK-EU negotiations led to a poor draft Withdrawal Agreement
Northern Ireland faces serious, even if unintended, effects
There are some interest groups that expect to see a more dynamic UK economy outside the EU which will develop faster than when it was part of the EU. The evidence for that prospect is not strong. From a Northern Ireland perspective, the UK outside the EU places Northern Ireland in a less favourable location to attract EU or American investment. The Irish economy is currently one of the fastest growing in the EU: Northern Ireland is on a much slower trajectory.

Critically, Brexit is unfinished business. The content on the still to be negotiated agreement on the future relations between the UK and the EU has not been published. If the UK Parliament does, eventually, agree to the Withdrawal Agreement, then there may be a transition period (of at least two years) while agreement is sought on future relations.

More immediately, the argument for a confirmatory referendum is vocal and has merit. The argument for a continuing customs agreement is still under debate. The form of a special cross-border agreement to ensure a frictionless Irish border still leaves scope for local initiatives.

As a supporter of remain, there is little comfort in the continuing uncertainties. We will be watching evolving negotiations for many months to come. Our ability to participate in the negotiations will be very constrained.

With many thanks thanks to: The Detail and John Simpson for the original story

John Simpson


John Simpson has worked on development problems in the North of Ireland economy for over 40 years initially as a government employee and then moving to an appointment as senior lecturer in economics at Queen’s University. Earlier in his career he worked in Zimbabwe, Malta and Sierra Leone before accepting a post at the UK Treasury. Public appointments included periods as chair of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, chair of the Probation Board and Commissioner for Judicial Appointments. He writes regularly on business topics.

John McDonnell: No trust in PM over Brexit talks

http://John McDonnell: ‘We’re dealing with a very unstable government’

Labour’s shadow chancellor says he does not trust Theresa May after details from cross-party talks on Brexit were leaked to the press.

The PM has called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “put their differences aside” and agree a Brexit deal.

But John McDonnell said she had “blown the confidentially” of the talks and “jeopardised the negotiations”.

The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March, but it was delayed to 31 October after MPs failed to agree a deal.

Mrs May put the plan she had negotiated with the EU to Parliament three times, but it did not have the support of the Commons.

‘Uncomfortable’ decision writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mrs May said Mr Corbyn should “listen to what voters said” in Thursday’s local elections – which saw the Conservatives lose 1,3334 councillors and Labour fail to make expected gains, instead losing 82 seats.

The Liberal Democrats benefited from Tory losses, gaining 703 seats, with the Greens and independents also making gains.

The prime minister blamed the Brexit impasse for the losses – but said the elections gave “fresh urgency” to find a way to “break the deadlock”.

Theresa May appealed to the Labour Party to find a compromise over Brexit REUTERS

Mrs May also said she hoped to find a “unified, cross-party position” with Labour – despite admitting that her colleagues “find this decision uncomfortable” and that “frankly, it is not what I wanted either”.

Election results in maps and charts
Tories lose more than 1,300 councillors
Davidson: Tories face Brexit ‘wake-up call’
Tories call for unity after election drubbing
Mr McDonnell agreed that the message from the polls was to “get on with it” and come to an agreement over Brexit quickly.

But while he said the talks between the two parties would continue on Tuesday, he said they had been undermined after an article in the Sunday Times, detailing where Mrs May was willing to compromise – namely on customs, goods alignment and workers’ rights.

The paper also said the PM could put forward plans for a comprehensive, but temporary, customs arrangement with the EU that would last until the next general election.

Mr McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “We have maintained confidentiality as that is what we were asked to do. We haven’t briefed the media.

“So it is disappointing the prime minister has broken that, and I think it is an act of bad faith.

“I fully understand now why she couldn’t negotiate a decent deal with our European partners if she behaves in this way.”

Asked if he trusted the prime minister, the shadow chancellor said: “No. Sorry. Not after this weekend when she has blown the confidentiality we had, and I actually think she has jeopardised the negotiation for her own personal protection.”

‘Success isn’t guaranteed’
By Nick Eardley, BBC political correspondent

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell and Sue Heyman have all been taking part in the cross-party talks Image copyright © PA


Clearly both sides think there is fresh impetus to get a deal after the local elections.

The government seems prepared to move towards Labour’s position, but it’s far from clear that it will be enough.

There’s a real fear on the Labour side that if this isn’t a permanent arrangement, a new Tory leader – perhaps Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab – could come along and try to change it.

So success isn’t guaranteed when the two sides get back around the table on Tuesday, and both sides need to know they can take a big chunk of their parties with them.

If Theresa May faces losing dozens of Tories opposed to a customs union, or Jeremy Corbyn faces losing dozens of labour MPs who want another referendum, they might not have the numbers to get this through the Commons.

And in that case, a compromise is useless.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, told the Daily Telegraph that staying in a customs union could lead to a “catastrophic split” in the Conservative Party.

And Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that millions of people would give up on Labour and the Conservatives if they agreed a deal, adding it would be the “final betrayal”.

May must go now, says former Tory leader
Local elections: Main parties punished
But the new International Development Secretary Rory Stewart told BBC Radio 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics the Tories might have to “take some short-term pain” to finish the job.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, also said her party needed to “start walking ourselves back” from the extremes of the argument to find a compromise, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr “there is a deal to be done” with Labour.


Media captionRuth Davidson MSP: “The answer is somewhere in the middle”.
‘Cobbled together’
Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said it was “absolutely right” for the talks to continue, but told Pienaar’s Politics: “I don’t think we should be in any doubt that the Labour Party membership and vast numbers of my colleagues in Parliament don’t want us to just sign off on a Tory Brexit.

“They don’t want us to bail the prime minister out of the problem of her own making and a very large number of our members think the people should decide on what that deal looks like.”

The comments come after the People’s Vote campaign – which wants a referendum on a final Brexit deal – published a letter signed by more than 100 opposition MPs saying any new, agreed deal should be put to the public for a vote.

Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, who backs the campaign, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “I think we have reached a stage now that whatever deal is agreed… it has to go back to the British people.

“Something stitched up, cobbled together in Westminster will not be sustainable in the long run. I want to check it is what people want now.”

With many thanks to: BBC Politics for the original story

John McDonnell

Conservative Party

Liberal Democrats

Theresa May

Labour Party

Brexit Party



The ‘Troubles’ may be over but the North of Ireland’s sectarian divides are deepening.

A peace process with no peace



The recent tragic death of Lyra McKee in the Creggan area of Derry City has raised fears that the peace in Northern Ireland is now under threat. Dissident republicans, calling themselves the ‘New IRA’ have admitted to causing her death while attacking the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

McKee came to prominence in 2015 when her blog went viral. It was a letter to her 14-year-old self who was suffering with the fact of being gay in Northern Ireland. It was later made into a short film. Her much-anticipated book, The Lost Boys, is an exploration of eight young men and boys who disappeared during the ‘Troubles’.

The sprawling Creggan Estate on the outskirts of Derry is one of the poorest working-class estates in the UK. Crime, vandalism, carjacking, joyriding, drugs, punishment shootings and heavily armed police raids against dissidents are commonplace. Because of this, the estate has become something of an attraction for journalists and filmmakers. Former BBC presenter Reggie Yates was in the area on the day McKee was shot, making a documentary for MTV about extreme and unusual places. Sinead O’Shea’s 2018 documentary A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot is set in the Creggan. It follows the life of the O’Donnell family after the mother voluntarily brings her son for a punishment shooting because he was dealing drugs.

Depictions of the Creggan paint a depressing picture of a community left behind by the peace dividend that was supposed to follow the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Commenting on police raids around this time last year, local independent councillor Gary Donnelly told Derry Now that the PSNI are ‘unreformed from the Royal Ulster Constabulary’ – the police force that was officially disbanded in 2001 as part of the peace process. ‘Their role remains the same, as they enforce British rule in Ireland’, he said. The fact that operations are ‘carried out by heavily armed officers, backed up by armoured vehicles and air support, bears testimony to this’. ‘The PSNI clearly mark themselves out in working-class republican areas as an oppressive occupying force far removed from the smiles and PR spin of their hollow “community neighbourhood policing” facade’, he added.

What, then, will the future hold for working-class nationalist communities like the Creggan, which were once a bedrock of support in the struggle for a united Ireland? Do those who are condemning the New IRA as ‘robbers and murderers who draw strength from a revolution the Irish refuse to let lie’ understand the residual tensions in Northern Ireland? Did the communities there endure all the repression and privation of the war years only to be abandoned by their own political leaders?

It was the New IRA who pulled the trigger on the PSNI and McKee. But Sinn Féin, the once-republican party, is to blame for much of the current mess and chaos in the Creggan. It sold the people a lie that the peace process would achieve a united Ireland. In truth, the GFA was nothing more than a coded ratification of the republican movement’s defeat. While there is still significant support for Sinn Féin in those communities, bitterness and disillusionment are increasingly apparent.

The dissidents of the New IRA are a symptom of Sinn Féin’s failure on many fronts. The party has also failed to address the social and economic deprivation that blights places like the Creggan, preferring to highlight issues like the Irish language, gay rights and abortion rights. It doesn’t focus on these issues just to goad Unionists. Sinn Féin believes that by concentrating on identity politics, its politicians can leave their nationalist/republican pasts behind and become ‘respectable’ political players.

Sinn Féin’s references to a united Ireland are increasingly muted, mentioned mostly at election time to retain their support in working-class communities – but only ever as a dream for a far-off future. In fact, the party might be about to take a step that would be unprecedented for an Irish republican party. Speaking at the recent Easter Rising commemoration in Belfast, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that in the continued absence of a power-sharing administration, ‘a new British-Irish partnership, a joint authority’, was needed in Northern Ireland.

In other words, Sinn Féin are openly willing to participate directly with the British government in maintaining the status quo in Northern Ireland. This can only further contribute to the bitterness felt in working-class nationalist communities, inspiring further support for dissident republicans like the New IRA. But the dissidents’ campaign is futile. There is no appetite for a renewed fight for Irish independence in the wider nationalist community. Their activity can only invite more repression for their communities and certain imprisonment for the young men who join them.

Responding to Lyra Mckee’s killing in a joint statement, party leaders said: ‘It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.’

But what does this 20 years of progress amount to? A digital mapping project by Dr Matthew Doherty published in 2017, using government census data between 1971 and 2011, reveals that the geographical split between Catholics and Protestants remains pretty much as it was in 1971. There is little or no cross-community integration that might indicate any softening of identities. In the supposedly vital arena of education, it is evident that the integrated-schools movement has lost momentum, enrolling under seven per cent of students in 2017. Outside Belfast City Hall, tour guides and buses wait to take the tourists to see the famous Peace Walls – or ‘interface barriers’, as they are euphemistically called – which crisscross many working-class areas of the city. In 2014, the government set a target of 10 years for the removal of all barriers – there are still 60 across Northern Ireland. There has actually been an increase in wall-building since the GFA in 1998. This suggests that relations between the two communities, notwithstanding the fact that the war is long over, are deteriorating. Any optimism about the future is in short supply.

The most recent edition of the Irish Pages, a Belfast literary publication, surveyed 42 of the leading intellectuals, poets and writers on the subject of the GFA. The heading for leading literary critic Edna Longley’s contribution summed up the survey: ‘The Belfast Agreement and Other Oxymorons.’ Novelist Glen Patterson voted Yes for the GFA, but now thinks he ‘can’t overlook the fact that almost from the get-go our politicians, and therefore the electorate who voted them in, did their best to fuck the whole thing up’.

More recently, Unionist poet Jean Bleakney complained of being assailed by ‘Brexit-bashers, republicans, civic nationalists, DUP-haters, academics, rights activists, journos’, arguing that ‘more than ever, somehow, everything was the fault of the Brits’. During the 1970s and 1980s, when the war in Ireland was raging, Unionists felt that the British government and state would always be on their side – and it was. Following Brexit, many feel that their position is no longer so secure.

Historian and leading architect of the GFA Paul Bew argues that ‘the people at the top of the UK government are paralysed by imperial guilt’. This is apparent among the British intellectual and political elites, where there is a desire to escape the embarrassment of Britain’s colonial and imperial past – a past to which Unionists are wedded. This is particularly evident in the attitude of many Remain voters in the Brexit referendum. They disparage any form of British nationalism or sovereignty as racist or fascistic and prefer to look to a new European identity for salvation.

The GFA’s core principle – that all the people of Northern Ireland can by birthright identify as ‘Irish or British or both as they may so choose’ ” is now cast in a different light as Britishness (and particularly the Unionist version of it) is now considered problematic. This identity crisis, combined with the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing assembly, Brexit, and the DUP’s role in shoring up Theresa May’s government, means that Ulster Unionists and their political culture has come under a new and fearful scrutiny. Their stance on issues such as gay rights, gay marriage and abortion have been condemned, and there is a growing sense that they are an embarrassment to much of the political elite in Britain.

It’s not just the political elite who are losing interest in Unionism. A few statistics from the ongoing Future of England survey reveal that 83 per cent of Leave voters believe that the collapse of the Irish peace process is a price worth paying for Brexit. Only 25 per cent of Leave voters believe that ‘revenue raised from taxpayers in England should also be distributed to Northern Ireland to help Northern Irish public services’. The Spectator has traditionally been one of the most pro-Unionist publications in Britain, but in one of its recent podcasts, the editor Fraser Nelson discussed how the DUP’s insistence that Britain and Northern Ireland remain fully aligned had tied the British into a Soft Brexit. They chose to play out the discussion with a tune by Paul McCartney called ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ – a song banned from UK airwaves in 1972. As the Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole worriedly pointed out, there is now a sentiment in the Tory circles which wishes that the ‘Irish (including the DUP) should bugger off and leave us to our own grand project of national liberation’.

So how is all this playing out in Unionist communities in NI? Journalist and Unionist commentator Newton Emerson summed it up when he wrote the following in the Irish Times:

‘Unionism’s largest party has consigned the UK to a zombie government, keeping Labour out of office but the Tories barely in power. The British public, having been forced to notice the DUP, has had every nationalist trope of Unionism’s awful “un-Britishness” seemingly confirmed. The same public has demonstrated its indifference, certainly at the ballot box, to the Labour leadership’s past sympathies with the IRA.’

Unionist fears are further compounded by the demographic clock. Dublin economist David McWilliams, who famously predicted the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, married into a Unionist family. His observation reveals something of the change in Northern Ireland:

‘I’ve been travelling around Ulster recently, taking in the views from rural Markethill in South Armagh to the prosperous King’s Road, Belmont and Stormont suburbs of east Belfast, and from coastal fishing villages of the Ards Peninsula to the council estates of Cookstown in Tyrone. I have seen Union Jacks and even UVF flags where I never saw them before. The anxiety of Unionism about the ticking demographic clock is captured by this “backs-to-the-wall” display of extravagant loyalist pageantry on the streets. On present trends, Catholics will be in the majority in Northern Ireland by the end of the next decade.’

Is there a future for a united Ireland? Would the Irish political class allow a referendum on it? And, more importantly, would they respect the democratic decision? Taking up his role as the spokesman for the southern Irish political elite, Fintan O’Toole thinks it will not stand: ‘The simplistic notion that a quick transition to Irish unity will solve the problem is utterly unconstitutional. The Constitution requires a profound reconciliation between diverse identities. That in turn requires people to be secure and confident in their sense of belonging.’

O’Toole is trying to put a legal cover on the reality of current political trends. The southern Irish elites did not respect the democratic decisions of their people in two referendums on EU treaties. Their British counterparts have shown the same attitude in refusing to respect the Brexit vote. Even if a border poll was demanded by the public, a united Ireland by democratic means seems an unlikely prospect.

The tide of history is turning in the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. Both nationalism and Unionism are now equally despised. The attempt to articulate a new political dispensation through culture and identity, which is central to the peace process, is producing not reconciliation, but a deeper and more dangerous personal enmity. Ireland needs a vision for a future that can prevent this slide into a repressed misanthropy.

With many thanks to: Spiked and Denis Russell for the original story

Denis Russell is a former history teacher.


The right to be British, Irish or both

Graphic by Chris Scott

CAJ’s Daniel Holder explores the question of compliance with Northern Ireland birthright provisions in the Good Friday Agreement to be British or Irish or both in light of the recent decision to exclude NI-born Irish citizens from the ‘EU Settlement Scheme’ and Emma DeSouza’s case.

Legally treaties are to be interpreted in good faith and in accordance with the ordinary meaning given to the terms within them, in light of their context and purpose.

Article 1 of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) commits British and Irish governments to:

…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.

This can be read from the text constituting a duty on both States for such persons “to be accepted as” Irish or British or both. The question of (national) identity is also notably limited to the same categories as citizenship (the legal bond between an individual and a State.)

Rights “to hold both British and Irish citizenship” accommodate persons who choose to be ‘both’ British and Irish. This is in light of many states not permitting dual citizenship.

The final clause can be read as a duty for NI-birthrights to British citizenship continuing to be in place in a future United Ireland.

Historical context of British and Irish citizenship
After partition under the 1922 constitution persons domiciled in the South became citizens of Saorstát Eireann (Irish Free State). However, UK law treated the same persons as British Subjects – a position that Dublin needless to say resisted. In 1935 the Irish government passed citizenship legislation that reflected Dublin’s concerns, with Section 33.3 – stating that being a ‘natural born citizen of Saorstát Eireann’ did not confer any other citizenship. Under UK law the British courts disagreed, and found in Murray v Parkes (1942) that a Roscommon-born man who had moved to England, was a British Subject under British law and had been legitimately therefore subject to British Army conscription.

Section 21 of Ireland’s 1935 Act restricted dual citizenship providing that acquisition of another citizenship could lead to loss of Irish citizenship – although later legislation (1956) qualified that this would not occur where such citizenship was ‘conferred’ on a person by the law of ‘another country’ without any ‘voluntary act’ on their part.

The 1956 Irish citizenship legislation (after the Republic of Ireland Act 1948) introduced into law the term ‘Irish Citizens’. Its provisions on birth and descent, automatically conferred Irish citizenship on persons in Northern Ireland. An action considered by the then Stormont Parliament as inflicting ‘unwanted Irish republican nationality on the people of Northern Ireland.’

The concept in law of a ‘British Citizen’ began in 1983 with the commencement of the current British Nationality Act 1981, replacing the concept of a ‘Citizen of the United Kingdom and the Colonies’ from British nationality legislation in 1948. The 1948 Act ceased to consider the Republic of Ireland as part of the ‘UK and the Colonies’ and ended the practice of automatic conferral of British Subject status on Irish Citizens. The 1981 Act continued automatically to confer British Citizenship on most persons born in the UK – including NI (the main exception being the children of temporary migrants).

The pre-GFA history of considerable contestation over the imposition of citizenship by either State set the context for what was included in the 1998 Agreement.

The consequence of the GFA on Irish and British citizenship law

The Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern signing the Good Friday Agreement


After 1998 Ireland amended its citizenship legislation to reflect the ‘birthright’ provisions in the GFA (also linked to the GFA changes in Article 2 of the Irish Constitution). The changes were taken forward by new citizenship legislation in 2001 that amended Ireland’s 1956 Act.

The 2001 amendments changed the provisions for Irish citizenships by birth away from automatic conferral of Irish citizenship on all persons born on the Island of Ireland, to one of an entitlement to be an Irish citizen.

Then Minister of Justice, John O’Donoghue set out that this change had been made to “ensure that our citizenship law reflects the new constitutional position and respects the right of those born in Northern Ireland to regard themselves as Irish or British or both, as they so choose.” He added that the legislation would “ensure respect for the position of those who do not wish to exercise that entitlement. At the same time, those who wish to assert their Irish citizenship are free to do so.”

Whilst the provisons on citizenship by descent are more complex, the clear intent of the Irish government was to bring citizenship law in line with the GFA, by making Irish citizenship an entitlement rather than an imposition. (Ireland changed its citizenship law in 2004, to limit the entitlement to those with a parent who was Irish/British or otherwise a permanent resident).

The UK, by contrast, resisted implementation of a number of GFA rights based provisions and continues to automatically confer British Citizenship on people born in Northern Ireland, rather than it being an entitlement.

Notably other official UK interpretations of the GFA did not lend themselves to the position that an NI-born person could not choose to be an Irish citizen only.

The 2008 ‘Citizenship Review’ conducted by the former UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC contained the interpretation that, ‘the Good Friday Agreement confirms the right of the people of Northern Ireland to take either British or Irish citizenship or both.’

The same year, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in its GFA-mandated advice on the content of a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights also interpreted the birthright provisions as providing for persons to be British or Irish citizens, (or both). The Commission recommended the incorporation of a birthright to citizenship in the Bill of Rights. The proposed right, which would have obliged the alteration of UK Citizenship law referred to “The right of the people of Northern Ireland to hold British or Irish citizenship or both … with no detriment or differential treatment of any kind.”

Curiously the NIO in its dismissive response to the recommendation, set out an understanding that all NI-born persons remained dual British and Irish citizens, as a matter of UK and Irish law respectively (and that nobody was solely either an Irish or British citizen.)

Regardless of British citizenship law the Home Office nevertheless ‘accepted’ NI-born persons who chose to be solely Irish citizens, as such in relation to other statutory provision until 2012.

An example is provided by the ill-fated UK Identity Cards scheme, where the Home Office ultimately conceded that it was incompatible with the GFA to compel NI-born Irish citizens to carry planned UK Identity Cards which identified the holder as a ‘British Citizen’. The scheme was abandoned in 2010.

Furthermore being an Irish citizen in NI means being an EU citizen in another member state. This brings certain EU rights, including a right to be joined by family members. The equivalence for NI-born British citizens is the ability to invoke the same right if taking up residence in the Republic or elsewhere in the EU.

The exercise of these EU rights was respected by the Home Office until 2012.

However, all this changed in 2012. With Theresa May as Home Secretary, the initiation of ‘hostile environment’ policies commenced, and so did an era of draconian measures in pursuit of political targets to reduce migration.

Theresa May

The Home Office seized upon the case of McCarthy (an EU ruling concerning limitations on dual nationals accessing EU rights) and relying on the continued conferral of British citizenship on the NI-born, ceased to treat NI-born applicants as Irish citizens, but as dual British citizens who were not entitled to EU rights in the UK. This position was taken despite the facts of McCarthy (an English woman in England who had taken up Irish citizenship and sought to exercise EU rights) being irrelevant to the circumstances of birthrights under the GFA. The policy decision was taken precisely to block access to certain EU rights and benefits, specifically EU rights to be joined by family members from outside the EU.

It is precisely this policy which has been challenged in the ongoing case of Emma and Jake DeSouza. The Immigration Tribunal held in favour of the DeSouzas, in that due to the GFA Emma DeSouza was entitled to be treated as an Irish citizen only if she so chose. The Home Office have appealed the decision.

The Home Office’s defence of its policy is largely grounded in the following two assertions:

Firstly, remarkably, that it is not bound by the terms of the GFA, (an international peace agreement the UK and Ireland lodged with the UN) and is therefore not required to amend its legislation as the UK Parliament is supreme.

Secondly, in contradiction, the Home Office argues that there is nothing in the GFA that prevents British citizenship being conferred at birth, and therefore law is compatible with the GFA.

The Home Office has also suggested that if NI-born persons want to be treated as Irish citizens they should pay a £372 fee and renounce British citizenship, which involves making a non-GFA compliant declaration of being a British-citizen and risking whatever broader consequences come with renunciation.

The exemplar campaigning work by the DeSouzas led to Theresa May announcing a review of NI Irish citizen family cases in February 2019; although it has since transpired that it has no terms of reference or time frame.

The Human Rights Commission and others have argued for an amendment to the British Nationality Act 1981. This could see British Citizenship as a birth entitlement, in the same way Irish citizenship now is.

Implications for Irish citizens EU rights post-Brexit
The Home Office position has to date affected dozens, if not hundreds of persons born in NI in similar situations to the DeSouzas. However, the recent decision to adopt the same approach to the EU Settlement Scheme significantly amplifies the potential impact the policy approach could have on all Irish citizens in NI. Irish citizens will automatically retain EU citizenship after Brexit, and certain rights to basic free movement to live, visit, retire etc elsewhere in the EU but many other EU rights and benefits are not automatically retained.

One alternative option to retain some EU rights was application through the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme enabling EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit to retain a raft of EU entitlements that are set out in the EU ‘citizens rights’ section of the EU-UK Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. (The same provisions apply to British citizens in other EU states). The criteria in the Withdrawal Agreement do not preclude applications from dual citizens.

During the pilot phase of the Settlement Scheme its legislation (‘Appendix EU’ of the Immigration Rules) allowed any EEA citizen– including NI-born Irish citizens- to apply. But the Home Office changed the criteria, as of March 29, with the purpose and effect of preventing NI-born Irish citizens from applying.

Whilst the Home Office line is that Irish citizens in NI do not need EU rights under the Settlement Scheme as there is specific provision for Irish citizens under the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements, the reality is the CTA provisions, are limited (not covering family reunification), ill defined, largely unenforceable, and not enshrined anywhere as rights.

As things stand NI-born Irish citizens are rendered among the only EU citizens in the UK who are prevented from retaining EU rights under the Scheme.

Daniel Holder has been the deputy director of the human rights NGO the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) since 2011. He is also the co-convener of the Equality Coalition – a network of equality NGOs and trade unions jointly convened by CAJ and Unison. He is a member of the BrexitLawNI team, a partnership between the law schools of Queen’s and Ulster Universities and CAJ focusing on the constitutional, peace process and human rights implications of Brexit.

With many thanks to: The Detail and Daniel Holder for the original story

Nancy Pelosi: US Speaker set for Brexit discussion on North of Ireland trip

US Government will block the UK for any trade-deal outside the EU if Ireland is not granted Special-Status North & South

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to visit the North of Ireland



US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will visit Northern Ireland next week as part of a US Congressional delegation.

In a statement, her office said she will meet “senior government officials and local leaders” with discussions focusing, in part, on Brexit.

The delegation’s timetable also includes visits to Stuttgart, London, and Dublin.

Mrs Pelosi’s schedule in Northern Ireland has yet to be announced.

The remarkable comeback of America’s most powerful woman
She said part of the focus of the trip would be about expressing “America’s enduring commitment to a peaceful and prosperous future for all who live [in the UK and Ireland]”.

“The United Kingdom and Ireland each have a deep and special bond with the United States,” she said

“Our distinguished delegation is travelling at a critical moment for two of our closest allies, and we look forward to high-level discussions about the path forward on our shared security and economic interests.”

Put the border in the Irish 🍀Sea – Keep British & American food out of Ireland and that sorts out the border between North & South. We don’t want below standard food 🍴🍕🍔 products in any part of Ireland “NO MINNOSORTA”

It had previously been announced that Speaker Pelosi would address the Dáil [Irish parliament] on Wednesday to mark its 100th anniversary.

On the same day, the Congressional delegation will also meet Irish President Michael D Higgins.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal and Congressman Brendan Boyle are also part of the Congressional delegation.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-chlorinated-chicken-food-standards-agency-no-ban-imports-food-us-fsa-a7869561.html



Legal change could deny Irish citizens EU rights, campaigners fear

Some Irish citizens could lose EU rights because they are also British, in move rights groups say threatens Good Friday Agreement

A bus crossing between the North and southern Ireland passes a sign campaigning against a so-called hard Brexit, on February 2nd, 2017 in Newry, North of Ireland
Campaigners fear Irish citizens will have different rights




People born in the North of Ireland have expressed outrage at a legal change they say will deny them EU rights they claim as Irish citizens.

Researcher Emma DeSouza drew attention to new rules stating British citizens cannot also be EEA (European Economic Area) citizens – a clause that applies to Northern Irish who claim dual Irish and British nationality.

Despite Home Office insistence that dual citizens’ rights will be unaffected by Brexit, Sinn Fein politicians have said the case “proves” the British government was “in breach of the Good Friday Agreement”.

Under the 1998 deal – which secured peace in the North of Ireland after decades of violence – people born in the North of Ireland have the right to be British, Irish, or both.


Irish border issue: ‘Peace is not guaranteed’, says George Mitchell
Under current law, however, Irish citizenship is an entitlement, while British citizenship is automatically conferred on everyone in the North of Ireland – a system some object to.

“Being able to have Irish citizenship is a core thing about the Good Friday Agreement. One of the reasons nationalists got behind it is because they were told their Irish identity would be protected,” Ms DeSouza said.

“When a government tells you your identity is not what you think it is and they remove rights from you on that basis, it is emotional.”

Like some other Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, Ms DeSouza had hoped to claim settled status as an EU citizen in the UK after Brexit.

She hoped the move would secure her status as an Irish EU citizen, and rights available to EU but not British citizens – in particular the ability to be joined by non-EU family members in the UK.

Leo Varadkar favours allowing the UK government more time to reach a Brexit deal, but not any suggestion of changing the terms around the backstop

Irish PM: ‘Cut the UK government some slack’
The change, she believes, prevents that, creating a “two-tier system” in which Irish citizens in the Republic of Ireland are classed as EU citizens, while those in the North are not.

“Someone who was born in Donegal will have EU citizens’ rights, while someone who was born in Derry won’t,” Ms DeSouza said.

Hundreds responded to Ms DeSouza’s campaign with the hashtag #WeAreIrishToo, with one person describing the move as “emotionally devastating” and another “tantamount to ripping up the Good Friday Agreement”.

Daniel Holder, of Irish human rights group CAJ told Sky News that by treating all of the Northern  Irish citizens as British, the British government was blocking EU citizens from retaining EU rights after Brexit.

“Now if you are Irish and you are told your British that really annoys people in terms of their identity – as it would the other way round,” he told Sky News.

“As Irish citizens remain EU citizens and everyone born in the North of Ireland either is or is entitled to be an EU citizen, you have up to 1.8 million EU citizens here who are being obstructed from retaining even EU citizens rights under the proposed Brexit agreement.”

Sky Data poll: Irish overwhelmingly back government’s pressure on backstop


The benefits of EU citizenship include the right to bring non-EU partners to live in the EU – a process notoriously difficult under UK immigration rules.

Northern Irish citizens including Ms DeSouza have struggled to secure residence for non-EU partners because their British citizenship is seen to override their rights as EU citizens.

Campaigners fear that if they cannot be defined as EEA citizens after Brexit more problems like this will affect the 1.8 million citizens of the North of Ireland.

In a statement, the Home Office confirmed that people in the North of Ireland who are British or dual nationals cannot be granted status under the settlement scheme, but said “their rights and entitlements are not affected by the UK leaving the EU”.

“How the people of the North of Ireland can be joined in the UK by their family members is being reviewed,” a spokesperson said.

However immigration minister Caroline Nokes, responding to an urgent question by SNP politician Stuart McDonald, later said it would not carry out a “formal review” and said there was no timescale for the work.

Mr Holder said it was critical to handle the issue well, but expressed concerns.

“The government’s institutional memory of the Good Friday Agreement and the importance of appears to have been lost,” he said.

“Quite often they appear clueless as to the implications of actions like this are going to have.”

With many thanks to: Sky News and Bethan Staton News Reporter for the original story

Sponsored Links
The EU Settlement Scheme
HM Government

Brexit: Ireland committed to protecting citizens’ rights in the North of Ireland

Helen McEntire said the Irish government had “noted” there had been an update to the UK immigration rules Image copyright © REUTERS


The Irish government has stressed its commitment to protecting the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.

It follows social media concerns that a change in UK immigration rules could mean some lose rights after Brexit.

Under the Good Friday peace agreement, anyone born in Northern Ireland has the right to be British, Irish or both.

The issue of citizenship was raised the last time Theresa May was in Northern Ireland and she said she would pass the concerns to the Home Office.

‘No deal does not mean hard border’
Q&A: The Irish border Brexit backstop
Call for new UK-Irish treaty on Common Travel Area
On Wednesday, the issue was raised in the Seanad (Irish senate) by Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile.

He said it was “crunch time” and called on the Irish government to give clarity after the speculation that a “tiered level of citizenship” could come into existence.

In response, Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee, said it was “vitally important” the citizenship and identity provisions of the Good Friday Agreement were upheld.

“We are fully aware of the concerns that have been raised here today and concerns from many that these statements raise for Irish citizens in Northern Ireland particularly, given so much of the uncertainty that surrounds Brexit at the moment,” she said.

Mrs McEntee said her government had “noted” there had been an update to the UK immigration rules “in order to give effect to the UK settled status schemes and the letter from the UK minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes”.

“It is important to be clear that these statements in no way change the position that the EU citizenship of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland continues in all circumstances,” she added.

“As EU citizens, they continue to enjoy the right to live and work throughout the EU and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality.”

In a statement, the Home Office told the BBC that it respected identity rights, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story