While I empathise with many in Britain who voted to Remain and who are now resentful of losing their EU citizenship, to make Northern Ireland the object of this ire is deeply misguidedby Siobhan Fenton / December 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
After much agonising over the Irish question, a last-minute deal has been finally cobbled together in order to progress Brexit talks to the next stage.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and her Irish counterpart Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, have agreed on a set of principles which they hope will finally answer some of the uncertainty about the future of Northern Ireland once the UK leaves the EU.
We are told that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland (pleasing the government in the south and the nationalist community in the north) but also no regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (pleasing the Conservatives’ pact partners in the DUP).
Quite how these two apparently contradictory measures will be squared is still ambiguous—but it appears that the promise is enough to placate both sides for the time being at least in order to allow talks to progress.
However, a clearer and more tangible, if somewhat overlooked, development for Northern Ireland in today’s announcement is that people born there will remain entitled to hold an Irish passport if they wish—as was already guaranteed to them under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement—and that, by extension this will allow them to retain EU citizenship.
The agreement published this morning states: “The people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland.”
This development is far from surprising as the Irish government, British government and the EU have all pledged variations of this over the course of the last year before today’s commitment.
What has been surprising has been the backlash with which the news has been met by some in Britain.
Journalist James O’Brien responded by tweeting: “British children born in Belfast will have more rights and freedoms than British children born in Birmingham. I’m happy for them but that’s hardly fair.”
Labour MP Steve Reed was quick to tweet: “How is it fair that NI citizens keep EU citizenship but my constituents in Croydon North don’t. Should apply to whole UK.”
A similar raft of grumblings had emerged earlier this week when a draft deal was leaked on Monday which mooted a special status for…