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Northern Ireland and Brexit: the European Economic Area option

Brian Doherty , Christopher McCrudden , Lee McGowan , David Phinnemore , Dagmar Schiek , John Temple Lang

Date: 07/04/2017
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU poses many challenges for Northern Ireland. Because of its geographical location (sharing a land border with another EU country) and distinct socio-political context (joint EU membership as a mechanism to reduce concerns over nationality and sovereignty), Brexit may turn out to be more problematic for Northern Ireland than it is for the rest of the UK. That is why the preferred option of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is, in many respects, for the status quo to be maintained. An approach that could mitigate some of the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and maintain much of the economic status quo is for it to become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). This paper sets out what the EEA offers and highlights how EEA membership might be achieved. In the EEA, Northern Ireland would retain full access to the single market and would continue to be part of a European market with the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. EEA membership would also permit some citizenship rights to be maintained. It would not, however, be a panacea; some political and legal challenges would remain. But it is a familiar arrangement and would therefore ensure a significant degree of certainty.

Read the full paper here

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