Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU

27 June 2017, BBC News.

Brexit and EU signs

What does it mean for Northern Ireland?

The land border between Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland is likely to be a key part of the Brexit talks. There is currently a common travel area between the UK and the Republic.

Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum. The result in Northern Ireland was 56% for Remain and 44% for Leave.

Sinn Fein, which was part of the ruling coalition in the Northern Ireland Assembly before it was suspended, has called for a referendum on leaving the UK and joining the Republic of Ireland as soon as possible.

The Conservatives have rejected Sinn Fein’s call, saying there was no evidence opinion had shifted in favour of a united Ireland.

But Conservative Brexit spokesman David Davis has said that should the people of Northern Ireland ever vote to leave the UK, they would “be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state”.

It would then be up to the EU Commission “to respond to any specific questions about the procedural requirements for that to happen,” he added.

But Mr Davis said the UK government’s “clear position is to support Northern Ireland’s current constitutional status: as part of the UK, but with strong links to Ireland”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says there should be a referendum on Irish unity if the Northern Ireland Assembly wants one.

The issue has been further complicated by Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, enabling her to form a minority government, which some critics, including former Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major, have warned could adversely effect the peace process and mean the UK government would no longer be seen as an “impartial honest broker” in restoring the power-sharing arrangements and upholding Northern Irish institutions.

What will happen to the borders in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, asks Nigel May.

Kevin Connolly says:

I think the question of what is going to happen to difficult borders after Brexit is one of the most difficult of the lot.

Since 1985 when Spain joined the EU, it has basically been prevented from closing the border with Gibraltar as a way of applying pressure to the British territory.

In fact, 12,000 Spanish people cross into the territory to work every day and the area of Spain around Gibraltar is a pretty depressed area so they are important jobs.

On the other hand, the Spanish have talked openly about this being an opportunity to get Gibraltar back. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, its minister of foreign affairs, said in September the UK’s vote to leave the EU was “a unique historical opportunity in more than three hundred years to get Gibraltar back”.

But at a minimum, as things stand, it looks to me as though they could certainly re-impose border controls if they chose to.

A Northern Ireland border sign

The situation with Ireland’s border is more complex.

For those of us for whom Northern Ireland is home, the total disappearance of military check points on the border is one of the most tangible daily reminders of the end of the troubles and no one wants a border like that back.

But, when the day comes when Ireland is in the EU and the UK is not, then the Irish border of course is also going to be the UK’s land border with the European Union.

Conservative leader Theresa May has said we don’t see a return to the borders of the past, but the reality is that if Britain leaves the common customs area, then presumably some sort of checks are going to be necessary on that border.

And if the UK wants to stop Polish or Romanian migrant workers using Dublin airport as a back door into the UK, then it is going to have to do something about that too.

Of course, what it will all mean for towns and villages like Belleek and Belcoo in County Fermanagh, which more or less straddle the border, is hard to imagine.

Is it possible to be both an EU citizen and not an EU citizen, asks Declan O’Neill, who holds an Irish passport.

Kevin Connolly says:

I should probably declare some sort of interest here as a dual Irish and British national myself.

Of course, anyone born in Northern Ireland has an absolute right to carry both passports.

Declan might be happy to know that this is one of the few questions where I can’t see a downside as long as you are happy and comfortable carrying both passports.

Irish and British passports on top of mixed currencyImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The Irish document means you continue to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship, and the British passport will give you full rights in the UK at the same time.

Call it one of the clear joys of coming from Northern Ireland, alongside the rolling hills, rugged coastline and enjoyable breaks between the showers.

All you have to do is remember to carry the Irish passport when you are joining the EU citizens-only queue at the airport in future.

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