The Policy Papers
Report on a Special Designated Status for Northern Ireland Post-Brexit: An Independent Opinion Commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group of the European Parliament
The EU-UK Joint Report of December 2017 recognised the possibility for a differentiated Brexit that would allow Northern Ireland to maintain a special relationship with the EU. Such an arrangement could occur if addressing the challenge of the Irish border through the overall future EU-UK relationship proves impossible and if the specific technological solutions the UK proposes are deemed insufficient. Indeed, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland of the draft UK Withdrawal Treaty the EU published on 28 February 2018 codified such a ‘backstop option’.
The present Independent Opinion suggests that the UK Withdrawal Agreement should recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland by providing for a special designated status. Such a status should be understood as a mutually agreed arrangement that will respect and protect the unique constitutional status of the region as provided by all three Strands of the Good Friday Agreement. In particular, the special designated status should respect the principle of consent and the right of self-determination by providing for a legal route for the reintegration of Northern Ireland into the EU. This status should protect the all-island economy by allowing for the participation of the region in the single market and/or the EU Customs Union (EUCU). This situation should not happen at the expense of weakening ‘East-West’ institutions, however (i.e. between the Republic of Ireland and the UK); in fact, their strengthening will be necessary in order to manage the tensions that Northern Ireland’s remaining in the single market and the EUCU would likely cause to its economic relationship with the rest of the UK.
This paper offers a concise analysis of the legal status of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) under EU law. It revisits the foundational documents that led to the establishment of the SBAs; explains their status in EU law after the Republic of Cyprus acceded to the EU; and finally explains how the UK Withdrawal Agreement accommodates them post-Brexit.