Global menu

Our global pages


Brexit - Position Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland

  • United Kingdom
  • Brexit
  • Competition, EU and Trade


On 16 August 2017, the UK government published its position paper on the Irish / UK border, in light of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The position paper notes that the UK and the EU had positive exploratory discussions in the July round of negotiations covering the UK’s proposals in relation to the Belfast Agreement (the “Good Friday Agreement”) and the Common Travel Area (the “CTA”) and associated rights.

The UK believes that there are four broad areas where a specific focus is required.

1. Upholding the Good Friday Agreement

Although the Good Friday Agreement is not predicated on EU membership, the UK is clear that it must be considered and safeguarded throughout the exit process. The UK proposes that both the UK and the EU should:

  • affirm the on-going support of the UK, Ireland, and the EU for the peace process;
  • formally recognise that the citizenship rights set out in the Good Friday Agreement will continue to be upheld. The Good Friday Agreement confirmed the birthright of the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as British or Irish or both, as they may so choose, and to hold British and Irish citizenship; and
  • agree to the continuation of PEACE funding to Northern Ireland and border counties of Ireland. Between 1995 and 2013, the PEACE programmes allocated almost €2 billion of funding to projects supporting peace and reconciliation. The UK proposes that the UK and the EU should agree the continuation of funding for the duration of the existing PEACE programme and, with the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government, explore a potential future programme post-2020.

2. Maintaining the CTA and associated rights

The CTA is a special border-free zone comprising the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The CTA was formed before either the UK or Ireland were members of the EU and means that reciprocal rights for Irish and UK citizens operate separately and alongside those rights afforded to EU nationals. These reciprocal rights include:

  • the right to enter and reside in each others’ state without being subject to a requirement to obtain permission;
  • the right to work without being subject to a requirement to obtain permission;
  • the right to study;
  • access to social welfare entitlements and benefits;
  • access to health services; and
  • the right to vote in local and parliamentary elections.

3. Avoiding a hard border for the movement of goods

The UK proposes that its dialogue with the EU should focus in particular on customs arrangements; and checks and processes on particular goods, such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures for agri-food.

4. Aiming to preserve North-South and East-West co-operation, including on energy

Under the Single Electricity Market, all electricity generators compete in a unified wholesale market across the island of Ireland.

The UK believes that there should be a strong shared desire between the UK, Ireland and the EU to support the stability of energy supply on the island of Ireland. The position paper notes that the efficient transit of gas across the border to and from Ireland, and maintaining affordable, sustainable and secure electricity supplies across the island of Ireland are central to achieving this.