EU Exit and Protecting the Peace Process

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2019 National Delegate Conference
26 February 2019

Conference notes that at the time of writing, the UK is still set to leave the EU on 29 March but that the terms of its exit and whether it will exit at all remains very unclear. Conference believes that regardless of whether the UK has left the EU on 29 March under the terms of Theresa May’s deal, Article 50 has been extended, or a general election or second referendum has been called, protecting the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts must remain of paramount importance, be it during a transition period, an extension of Article 50 or any election campaign.

Conference believes that too many have reduced the impact of the UK exit from the EU on Northern Ireland to questions of how goods will move across the border, North and South. Conference believes that the UK exiting the EU presents much more serious and grave issues, negatively affecting the peace process, massively interfering in the day-to-day lives of our members, their families and their communities and in the delivery of public services.

Conference recalls the unwavering support this union has demonstrated for the peace process in Northern Ireland, including support for the Northern Ireland region in campaigning for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and in all its campaigns calling for genuine power-sharing government and the full implementation of that agreement ever since. Conference believes that the UK exiting the EU undermines and threatens the agreement, as already seen by the collapse of devolved Government in Northern Ireland.

Conference further believes that exiting the EU threatens the key aspects of the agreement relating to equality of citizenship and parity of esteem, creating borders between communities that the Good Friday Agreement was meant to bring down.

Conference notes that whilst UNISON does not support Theresa May’s deal, it agrees that any deal between the UK and EU will only be possible if it includes a ‘backstop’ designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement, North-South cooperation and the all island economy on the island of Ireland. Conference agrees that our members in Northern Ireland need this insurance policy, which is designed to both keep an open border across the island of Ireland and mitigate the impact of an EU exit on the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland membership in particular, to:

1)Continue to campaign against a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU if Article 50 has been extended beyond 29 March;

2)Campaign for a bilateral British-Irish treaty that protects the rights of British and Irish citizens across these islands as part of the Common Travel Area and for the highest standards of equality of treatment for citizens in Northern Ireland regardless of their chosen identity;

3)Resist any attempts to remove or weaken the backstop if Article 50 has been extended and the Withdrawal Agreement has yet to be passed;

4)Continue to seek a future relationship between the UK and EU that builds upon and strengthens the protections set out within the backstop, which protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and prevents a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland;

5)Call for the establishment of an independent international body to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement and to ensure future decisions of both guarantor governments align with the provisions and intention of the Good Friday Agreement;

6)Through Labour Link, to press the Labour Party to take all actions necessary to protect the Good Friday Agreement in the context of the UK exit from the EU.