Belfast Telegraph

Brexit plan reiterates UK and Ireland's 'unique relationship'

By Kevin Doyle

The UK and Irish Republic are described as "inescapably intertwined" in the Government's newly-published Brexit plan.

The White Paper on Brexit says the "unique relationship" shared by the two countries warrants special recognition in the forthcoming negotiations between the UK and the Europe Union.

A detailed section arguing for the retention of "as seamless and frictionless a border" as possible will give a boost to the Irish Government, which is coming under increasing pressure to reveal the detail of its own Brexit strategy.

The document states the Common Travel Area should be retained on the basis that it is linked back to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

It also notes that Irish citizens have had a special place in Britain long before both countries joined the EU in 1973.

"Since well before the establishment of the EU, Irish citizens have had a special status within the UK, rooted in the Ireland Act 1949 and reflected in the British Nationality Acts.

"This status provides Irish citizens in the UK with additional rights beyond those associated with common membership of the EU," the White Paper says.

According to the 77-page document, there are "hundreds of thousands of Irish nationals residing in the UK and of UK nationals residing in Ireland".

"There are also close ties and family connections, particularly across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," it adds.

Citing the historic visit of the Queen to the Republic in 2011, and President Michael D Higgins reciprocal visit to the UK in 2014, the paper adds: "The relationship between the two countries has never been better, or more settled than today, thanks to the strong political commitment from both Governments to deepen and broaden our modern partnership."

On the potential for customs posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the White Paper states cross-border movement "is an important part of this economic integration".

"Over 14,000 people regularly commute across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland for work or study," it says.

And it says that both the British and Irish Governments have already agreed on a desire to protect the "reciprocal treatment of each other's nationals once the UK has left the EU".

"In particular, in recognition of their importance in the Belfast Agreement, the people of Northern Ireland will continue to be able to identify themselves as British or Irish, or both, and to hold citizenship accordingly."

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said he welcomed the emphasis in the White Paper on strengthening the Union. "I'm also glad that the Government took the time to restate the obvious - that Brexit would have no impact on the Common Travel Area, or the unique relationship between British and Irish citizens.

"This long pre-dated EU membership and will happily outlast it. Then there's the border. In long and shameful careers of bending the truth to suit their needs, even Tony Blair and John Major seldom stooped lower than the irresponsible and misleading scare stories they peddled during the referendum about what Brexit would mean for the border."

UUP MP Danny Kinahan also welcomed the result of the vote, but added: "While there will be a thirst for even greater detail from the PM, what is missing is any direction from Stormont."

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