Brexit incompatible with Good Friday agreement, say Irish lawyers

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Nov 06, 2017
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Brexit is likely to end the free movement of people, which could undermine the Good Friday agreement

Jonathan Brady/PA

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is completely incompatible with the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland, leading QCs have said.

Paul McGarry, SC, chairman of the Bar of Ireland, said: “The UK government has not provided any clear proposals as to the Irish border because they do not have an answer.” 

That was “because the Good Friday agreement and Brexit are incompatible for a number of reasons,” he told the annual Bar Conference in London on Saturday. 

One, he said, was that the agreement “is clear on the free movement of people”. However, Brexit “must mean the imposition of a border and that is entirely incompatible with the Good Friday agreement”. Second, one of the cornerstones of the agreement was that all citizens of Northern Ireland were entitled to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland which meant EU citizenship, he added. “That is also incompatible.” 

Liam McCollum, QC, chairman of the Bar of Northern Ireland, agreed. “It is as an insoluble an issue as you could possibly imagine,” he said. Brexit, he added, would “undermine the Good Friday agreement”. 

McGarry said that the agreement was not something that could be amended and that it would have to be renegotiated.

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