Source: NI problems compounded by Brexit election
In the absence of much mention in Britain of possible harsh effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland, credit is due to the European Policy Centre (EPC) for at least trying to provoke a discussion.
Compiled by a group of Belfast-based academics, “Northern Ireland and Brexit: the European Economic Area option” attempts to highlight the region’s particular vulnerabilities and simultaneously outlining one option which could address them.
The discussion paper sums up the problems posed by a “hard Brexit” as follows. Membership of the EEA could soften the blow of a hard Brexit. But the authors admit it’s a poor second best to continued membership of the EU, Single Market and Customs Union.
They state Brexit will:
• hinder access to the EU market and especially cross-border trade with the rest of Ireland
• disrupt significantly integrated cross-border markets and supply- and production-chains
• impede the movement of workers and people more generally across the border
• raise questions about the future of the Common Travel Area and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as well as cooperation on policing and criminal justice matters.
The snap Brexit election complicates things.
That much we know. But the paper goes on to highlight Northern Ireland’s political weakness when raising Brexit concerns. The authors cite a British tendency to lump together “regional” concerns from Scotland, NI and Wales . This region, they claim, differs from Scotland and Wales in a series of key policy areas. This problem is further compounded by the absence of a Stormont Executive and a local voice to raise specific problems. The UK government is preoccupied with English concerns, has an in-built tendency to overlook the devolved administrations (none of which is Conservative or supportive of Brexit) and is stalling efforts to re-establish the Stormont institutions thanks to the general election called by the prime minister as part of her Brexit strategy.
It’s a kind of ‘treble whammy’.