EU Exit – Protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process

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2017 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2017
Carried as Amended

The current position of the UK Government for a ‘hard’ exit from the EU places the Northern Ireland peace process in severe jeopardy and has serious implications for the island of Ireland as a whole.

This peace agreement received the consent of the majority of the people in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by way of referendum. It is an international peace treaty co-signed by the UK Government and the Irish Government and registered with the United Nations. European Community law, its conventions and charters and access both to the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights are explicit in the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The desire to protect our precarious peace process was a major feature of the successful trade union campaign, led by UNISON Northern Ireland, which resulted in a majority vote to ‘remain’ in Northern Ireland. The desire of the UK Government to pursue a ‘hard’ exit from the EU is a major threat to the principles of consent and equivalence of rights across the island of Ireland that are core principles of the peace process. It will undoubtedly be followed by a sustained attack on the Human Rights Act, which would represent another disastrous blow to the equality and human rights provisions and unfinished business of the Good Friday Agreement. Whilst Theresa May can repeat the mantra that there will be ‘‘no return to the borders of the past’’, it is increasingly clear that a ‘hard’ exit will result in the return of a border across the island of Ireland which will damage the fragile peace that has been hard won. Exit from the EU customs union in particular will also have profound social and economic consequences for both jurisdictions in Ireland.

The current political situation in Northern Ireland has dramatically destabilised resulting in the collapse of our Government after only nine months and fresh elections in March 2017. At the time of writing this motion, the future is unclear. It is to the shame of the UK Government that the implications for peace in Northern Ireland of a ‘hard’ exit from the EU have been completely ignored.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to spearhead a campaign aimed at making protection of the Northern Ireland peace agreement a negotiating priority within the EU exit negotiations and to use its influence within the TUC, ICTU, STUC, the Wales TUC and the ETUC to secure the support of the international trade union movement for this position. It further urges the National Executive Council to use its influence within Labour Link in particular, with political parties in all five jurisdictions, and with the EU, to garner support for the protection of the peace agreement as a priority.