Last week’s BBC NI Spotlight programme contained some questions from the audience on “Brexit” – specifically, on the impact on individual people.
Anyone who says anything with certainty about the outcome of “Brexit” is not to be trusted. However, we can take some reasonable guesses.
“Will I have to show a passport to get to Dublin Airport [from Northern Ireland]?”
Almost certainly not.
The issue at the border is whether vehicles and travellers will have to be stopped at Customs checkpoints. Even this is not something which would happen overnight; it would happen gradually as (if) the UK chose to create product regulations and trading standards distinct from the EU.
Cost of living
“Will my fuel prices keep rising?”
This depends. It is worth being clear why they are currently rising, to the notable detriment of people on low and fixed incomes who have no real means of increasing their income (and thus have to save extra money from the household budget to pay for fuel).
The vote to leave the EU inevitably saw a decline in the value of the Pound Sterling. Two things then happened: first, the UK printed more money, devaluing further the money already in existence; and second, the devaluation of money increased the cost of imports. The UK is now a net importer of energy, for example, so the cost of energy went up.
The further issue is the UK Government’s apparent lack of plan for leaving the EU, with the increasing risk that the UK’s withdrawal will be “hard”, with significant tariff barriers and so on, inevitably damaging the economy. This further weakened the currency (as people sought to hold money in the currencies of stronger economies), beyond even the expectations of Remain campaigners during the referendum.
The question now is whether the UK Government can show some competence in developing a negotiating strategy. The best bet is to assume it will not, so the cost of living will continue to rise.
Should Northern Ireland have special status?
Northern Ireland already has special status.
The 1998 Agreement establishes that Northern Ireland is within the UK for sovereignty, but that its citizens may opt for either UK or Irish citizenship (or both). This is unique; in most cases, citizenship directly follows sovereignty.
Therefore, for a start, “people of Northern Ireland” will have an automatic (birth)right to EU citizenship, even if the UK proceeds to leave the EU. This does not apply to any other UK jurisdiction, and thus already constitutes “special status”.
Added to this is Northern Ireland’s geographical location, its shared banking system (up to a point) with an EU member state, and its particular exposure to EU exports (which constitute a far higher share of NI exports than GB). Notably, uniquely in the UK, Northern Ireland also has devolution of employment and equality – enabling it potentially and unilaterally to maintain EU law and standards in those areas.
Northern Ireland’s “special status” is not, therefore, a matter of debate but rather a matter of fact. The only question is what it proposes to do with it.
What about EU funding?
EU Funding is only guaranteed to 2020.
The safest bet is to assume it will not be available after that date. There will be some opportunities for research institutions and potentially even structural funds, but none at all for agriculture.