Source: North could be like Vatican, Andorra or Åland

Source: North could be like Vatican, Andorra or Åland

Brexit may look like the only game in town, but the EU is currently negotiating its relationship with Andorra, San Marino and Monaco. The negotiations are mentioned in “Hard Brexit” -How to address the new conundrum for the Island of Ireland?”, a report from the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence written by Professor Dagmar Schiek of QUB.

The EU has always has special relationships, not just with mini-states like those mentioned above and Liechtenstein. There is also precedence for special arrangements for self-governing regions of member states: Greenland is frequently mentioned but there is also a tailored deal for the Åland Islands, an autonomous,  Swedish-speaking region of Finland, outlined in Article 355 of the Lisbon Treaty. We had a look at this article and it also mentions ‘special relationships’ with Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

What they all have in common are particular geographic circumstances and relatively small populations, just like Northern Ireland. “Provided the political will on all sides of the negotiation is there, this might be a further option,” says the report. Indeed, but where is there any sign of the necessary good will?

The main focus of the report is to examine the degree of integration that has been achieved on the island of Ireland as a result of EU membership the political developments of the last 20 years: the examples above are mentioned in surveying the circumstances under which progress to date might be maintained.

It concludes: “Overall, it is suggested that there is merit in working for a sustained future of substantive integration on the island of Ireland. For more than 40 years, the law of the European Union has offered a functional legal framework for this endeavour. Maintaining the inclusion of Northern Ireland as a territory where the law of the EU applies would appear the least disruptive option. This does not mean that there are no disruptions. This does not mean that the UK’s departure will not create any disruption – the disruption resulting from a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are all too obvious. Further, there will be immense political difficulties in convincing the UK government in Westminster to continue contributing to the EU budget and enduring relevance of ECJ jurisdiction for the sake of maintaining an all island perspective for Ireland. Political difficulties will also abound from the Republic of Ireland, in particular around accepting that any solution will have to be negotiated with the whole of the EU-27 with priority, instead of relying on post-colonial bonds to the UK. It is possible, however, to craft a solution that does not disrupt all-island perspectives in the same way as it is possible to disrupt integration by foregoing this opportunity.”