United Kingdom withdrawal from the EU poses particular challenges for the island of Ireland, and Northern Ireland in particular. Northern Ireland’s uniqueness is reflected in the EU guidelines for negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, adopted by the EU-27 at the European Council meeting on 29 April 2017. These guidelines note the EU’s consistent support for ‘the goal of peace and reconciliation enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement’, adding that: ‘continuing to support and protect the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Peace Process will remain of paramount importance [to the EU]’. Specific reference is made to ‘the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland’ requiring ‘flexible and imaginative solutions … including with the aim of avoiding a hard border, while respecting the integrity of the Union legal order’. But specific ‘flexible and imaginative solutions’ have yet to be identified and few specific proposals have yet emerged that are feasible and effective, and also consistent with EU law. This lecture aims to discuss the problems and examine the options for negotiations, including Northern Ireland’s possible membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), taking into account the legal, political and economic complexities that the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the EU-27 will face.
Christopher McCrudden FBA is professor of human rights and equality law at Queen’s University Belfast, and William W Cook Global Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He was educated at Queen’s University Belfast, Yale University, and Oxford University, from which he received his doctorate. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. He is a former Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. During 2014-15, he was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and is currently a member of its Beirat. Professor McCrudden has extensive experience in the governmental and policy processes in Northern Ireland. He served as expert advisor to the Northern Ireland Committee of the UK Parliament, and has given evidence on several recent occasions to Committees of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee and the UK Parliament on the governance of Northern Ireland, including the implications of Brexit. He is a practicing barrister-at-law with Blackstone Chambers in London. In that capacity, he acted as junior counsel in the recent Brexit case relating to Northern Ireland in the UK Supreme Court. He has recently co-authored an article “Northern Ireland and ‘Brexit’: the European Economic Area Option”, published by the European Policy Centre in April.
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