How NI might make most of #Brexit

For all my desire to keep the UK in the EU, it is at best a long shot and the relationship will never again from my point of view be ideal.

So, if it comes to it, what should the NI Executive be looking for out of “Brexit”? Just a thought on how what I have termed a “Special Access Agreement” for Northern Ireland with the EU may yet be played to our advantage.

What might such an Agreement entail?

  1. Maintenance in Northern Ireland for devolved issues of the European Communities Act, maintaining EU law in Northern Ireland so that investors know that trading standards, employee rights and environmental regulations are the same here as they are in the EU;
  2. Negotiation with EU of a Special Customs Arrangement, meaning that goods and services travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not subject to customs – customs posts would be at the ports and would apply only to goods travelling between Great Britain (or perhaps England/Wales if Scotland wished to try to negotiate the same) and the Republic of Ireland;
  3. Negotiation with the UK of maintenance of separate vehicle registration – vehicles registered in Northern Ireland would have to carry Northern Ireland plates regardless of original registration, and likewise in Great Britain, enabling recognition of Northern Ireland vehicles within the Special Customs Area (for example, they would be treated as EU vehicles at ports travelling between France and Ireland);
  4. Negotiation with EU to maintain all reciprocal Health Agreements – EU citizens would be entitled to Health Care in Northern Ireland, and residents of Northern Ireland registered with a GP in Northern Ireland would be entitled to the reciprocal arrangement (with the added confidence given by maintenance of EU Law);
  5. Negotiation with Ireland that all “people of Northern Ireland” are entitled to Irish citizenship (and passport) and that this specifically includes qualification not just by birth but also by residence (of reasonable length) in Northern Ireland;
  6. Negotiation with the UK that all VAT raised additionally in Northern Ireland be kept in Northern Ireland (this is similar to arrangements which exist in Germany), designed to encourage Northern Ireland’s Executive to encourage business because it will be in its interest to do so;
  7. Negotiation with the UK that corporation tax and all taxes devolved to Scotland also be devolved to Northern Ireland enabling corporation tax potentially to be set at zero (noting that, if the UK rate is 15%, the cost of doing this will be lower than the cost of setting it at 12.5% when this was originally proposed in 2010);
  8. Negotiation with the UK that any leftover funds not spent by NI departments should remain available for spending in NI the following year, giving an additional lever to save funds to enable reduction of taxes to increase attractiveness to investors and maximise the new arrangements; and
  9. Negotiation with the EU that Northern Ireland universities and colleges be considered to all intents and purposes EU institutions (including for funding and student exchange).

Of course, this is quite a wish list and it may be that the NI Executive would have to agree to contribute a sum to structural funds in order to achieve it (as well as paying for any gap in corporation tax as per existing agreements; these in fact had more to do with existing UK convention than EU law). However, by agreeing to maintain EU law as far as it can, noting that its citizens are entitled to EU citizenship, and noting that the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, there is a strong case to be made (with little disadvantage to the EU in showing good will and going along with it).

The essential point here is that Northern Ireland already is a special case by virtue of its people’s joint citizenship (as per the 1998 Agreement), the requirement to maintain certain laws by international treaty (such as the ECHR), and its geographical location with a land frontier to the Eurozone/EU. Such a “Special Access Agreement” would maintain the key advantages of EU membership, while also enabling the use of some fiscal tools which are not currently realistically available.

If it comes to it, let’s go for it!

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12 thoughts on “How NI might make most of #Brexit

  1. The Listener says:

    What about freedom of movement of individuals? As under your suggested arrangements NI would be very attractive for eager EU citizens from the poorer areas of the EU, who would otherwise consider Great Britain their intended destination. For those in NI who are not so keen on diluting their UK citizenship a hardened Frontier at Great Britain ports would be irksome. Let us see what evolves from UK/EU negotiations, the tectonic plates within the EU are changing.

    • I’ll leave some of that to others, but my assumption is the Common Travel Area remains in place (so people can move about freely, but not necessarily work; although note it is already the case that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland must be treated the same as UK citizens).

      As for free movement generally across the (current) EU, that will be the core of the UK/EU negotiations. I’m not sure what influence the NI Executive can really have on that.

    • Dearg Doom says:

      Anyone coming to NI could also go south of the border, where wages are higher. No great checks at the GB ports will be needed, EU citizens will be allowed come as tourists etc, just not work.

      • This issue is very complex (leaving aside that alongside higher wages come higher personal taxes and a higher cost of living).

        I’ll do a separate blog post on it!

  2. I will call these the Parsley Proposals … Every one of them is good, but it would be interesting to see if the DUP or the Secretary of State can get behind the 4 EU ones.

  3. Declan Smyth says:

    Re Customs, it is hard to see Norway and Switzerland agreeing. There will be Tariffs imposed plus there will have to be checks to ensure compliance re payment of Duty and Vat and restitution a and prohibitions. The elephant in the room is that people travelling from Borth to South and from Gb to Republic will be subject to the same allowances that presently pertain to passengers arriving into EU fro outside it. That is one bottle spirits, 200 cigarettes, wine and beer allowance and other goods to the value of €430. Given the Irish media hysteria every year before austerity re the shopping trips to the USA it’s inconceivable that businesses here would be happy with no border.

    • Dearg Doom says:

      I think the main flaw in these generally excellent proposals is the issue of tariffs. What external tariffs will operate for NI and will these be different than GB? The question of people buying alcohol is not important provided that they are not allowed to buy it duty free. Likewise for other goods things wouldn’t be much different than now, sterling/Euro might provide temporary bargains but there wouldn’t be great differences.

      In general, I think the EU will go for any special arrangement for NI if it is confined to NI even if it breaks general principles. The question is can NI manage to organise itself to ask for it.

    • Well the beauty is Norway and Switzerland don’t have a say, they are secondary priority to the EU 27 own internal markets.

      Certainly most people don’t go between these islands or north and south in the island of Ireland with £430 of CAP goods like alcohol, food, clothes and food.

      The only consolation I would think is that the EU tariffs would have to be a bit more competitive without the UK in the pack, but the UK would have to pay them.

  4. […] and then to argue for it using all the channels available. There is no reason, for example, that my own proposals should cause either party any significant problem (after all, even a Sinn Fein Minister has […]

  5. […] could do perfectly well out of the forthcoming UK/EU negotiations. On top of its ability to seek a bespoke deal of its own given its land border with an EU member state and shared citizenship entitlement, it is well used […]

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