Brexit risks Good Friday Agreement if urgent ‘safeguarding measures’ are not taken

Brexit risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement without the urgent implementation of “safeguarding measures”, according to the human rights commissions in both jurisdictions.

The joint committee of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), established under the Good Friday Agreement, has today published a statement and a series of recommendations.

The joint committee identified six requirements for the final EU withdrawal agreement to meet the obligations of the Agreement:

  1. Ensure no diminution of rights within the withdrawal agreement.
  2. Safeguard the North-South equivalency of rights on an ongoing basis.
  3. Guarantee equality of citizenship within Northern Ireland.
  4. Protect border communities and migrant workers
  5. Ensure evolving justice arrangements do not water down rights.
  6. Ensure continued right to participate in public life for EU citizens in Northern Ireland.

The joint committee’s recommendations are for:

  • the Withdrawal Agreement to provide for the continuing North-South equivalence of rights, post-Brexit, as established under the 1998 Agreement.
  • the EU seek a legal commitment to retaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights and that rights can be enforced by the Court of Justice of the EU in Northern Ireland.
  • all the people of Northern Ireland retain the right to stand and vote in European Parliament elections.

Emily Logan, IHREC chief commissioner, said: “The peace process was built on a shared vision of equal rights and equal respect on the island of Ireland, as framed by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“This Joint Statement sets out how negotiators on both sides of Brexit can ensure that their stated commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement can be carried through to the final deal. We are now seeking assurances from the UK and Irish Governments that no rights are diluted as a result of Brexit.”

Les Allamby, NIHRC chief commissioner, said: “Progress towards a lasting resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland has been grounded in the provisions of the 1998 Agreement.

“We are concerned that the UK withdrawal from the EU threatens to undermine the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement by creating uncertainty for human rights protections within Northern Ireland.

“The Joint Committee statement outlines the areas that need to be addressed to mitigate concerns around citizenship rights and North-South equivalent equality and human rights protections.

“We will continue to assist both the UK and the Irish Governments as we move through this process, as we want the best deal for human rights for everyone in Northern Ireland going forward.”