Brexit Could Impact NI Peace Process - Study

Brexit could have detrimental consequences for the peace process in Northern Ireland, according to a new study.

The 'BrexitLawNI' partnership, made up of researchers from the Schools of Law at Queen's and Ulster University as well as human rights experts from the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), have concluded there is widespread anxiety about the long-term impact of Brexit on relationships on the island of Ireland.

Over the past 18 months, the team has been conducting in-depth interviews, consultations and town hall meetings to explore the possible impact of Brexit on human rights and the peace process. In addition, researchers have met with politicians and officials in Belfast, London, Dublin and Brussels as well as with business representatives, trade unions and community activists.

Consisting of a series of six interlinked reports, the study looked at the potential impact of Brexit on social and economic rights, North-South relations, the Irish border, human rights and equality protections, racism and xenophobia, and the peace process.

Professor Colin Harvey, from the School of Law at Queen's University, said the partnership found Brexit will "threaten the peace process and weaken protections for human rights and equality".

"This is a profound constitutional moment for Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland," he said.

"It risks disrupting North-South cooperation, increasing racist immigration enforcement and dividing British and Irish citizens. It could also reduce international oversight of human rights and introduce a new focus for conflict between divided communities.

"Many of these matters have simply been neglected in the discussions thus far and that must change."

A number of key recommendations are included within the study, such as;
News Image
• A hard border would further undermine political relations within NI, between NI and the ROI, and between the UK and Irish governments. It would also, inevitably, become a target for dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

• EU freedom of movement should be retained in NI. It has so far not proven possible to envisage any other solution that is not going to create multiple new differentials in entitlements - making further racial profiling and broader discrimination even more widespread.

• NI should remain within the single market and customs union and there should be no new barriers to trade either North-South or East-West.

• There is a need to legislate for a Bill of Rights for NI to enshrine socio-economic rights and help build a rights-based society that will ensure sustainable peace.

In addition, the study also found Brexit has had a political impact across the island of Ireland in 'mainstreaming' discussions on Irish reunification.

Professor Rory O'Connell, Director of the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University, said: "The 1998 Agreement found nuanced solutions to difficult issues of sovereignty, identity and the border, embedding these in a rights-respecting framework.

"Brexit risks unpicking these carefully, painfully-worked out solutions. These reports identify recommendations that, going forward, maintain the centrality of rights and equality."

Brian Gormally, Director of CAJ, added: "There is a real danger that Brexit could re-ignite conflict here. As the leaving process lurches ever nearer to a "hard" or "no-deal" Brexit, there is a risk of nationalists becoming more and more disillusioned at the disregarding of the will of the majority here while unionists coalesce in defence of Brexit and the Border.

"The last thing we need is a new bone of contention between our people. We need to stop, take stock and together work out solutions for this region."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

08 June 2005
Queen’s to debate future of Human Rights Commissions
The future of Human Rights Commissions in the UK and Ireland will be examined at Queen's University Belfast this week. The Human Rights Centre at the Queen's School of Law, in co-operation with the Faculty of Law, University of Bristol, will hold a half-day conference in Belfast on Friday on the role of both Commissions.
20 October 2005
Human rights central to citizenship - Minister
Human rights are central to citizenship and have an important role to play in moving Northern Ireland towards an equal, just and peaceful future. That was the message from Education Minister, Angela Smith, at today's cross-border conference on Human Rights Education in Dublin.
31 January 2002
John Hume honoured with Ghandi Peace Prize
Former leader of the SDLP and Nobel Laureate John Hume will be honoured in India with the Ghandi Peace Prize.
24 March 2009
Teen Denies Police Murder Charge
A teenager has appeared in court to deny murdering police officer Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, who was shot dead in Craigavon on Monday 9 March. He was in the dock at Lisburn Magistrates Court where the court was told he "made no reply to the charges", when they were put to him.
28 January 2005
Belfast to hold international Human Rights conference
A major conference, bringing together over 20 international human rights leaders from 12 countries, will take place in Belfast this weekend.
20 January 2005
Aid must be distributed fairly in conflict zones, UU expert warns
Governments in conflict zones hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami must ensure fair distribution of aid across crisis-hit regions so as to ensure shattered peace processes can be restarted, a University of Ulster specialist in peace agreements has said.
12 March 2004
Urgency creeps into Northern Ireland peace process
A renewed sense of urgency evident on Thursday night as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Dublin to discuss the Northern Ireland peace process. The two premiers pledged to take personal charge of a bid to break the deadlock following the return of the politicians from St Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington next week.
18 July 2001
US President George W Bush has called on the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups to decommission their weapons in his most demonstrative statement regarding the Northern Ireland peace process to date. Mr Bush’s first public comments are widely regarded to increase pressure on the IRA and loyalists to break the deadlock in the political process.
03 July 2001
BRITISH prime minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have scheduled a meeting to discuss the next step in the stalled Northern Ireland peace process. It has been confirmed that Mr Blair and Mr Ahern will meet in Downing Street on Wednesday July 4 in an attempt to prevent the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
06 October 2003
Human Rights Groups call for publication of Cory Reports
Four international and domestic human rights groups have urged the UK and Irish governments to publish tomorrow's reports into collusion promptly.
06 July 2012
SDLP's John Hume Gets Papal Knighthood
Former SDLP leader John Hume has been knighted by Pope Benedict. He was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory after his long-running human rights work and contribution to the Northern Irish peace process. Mr Hume, a former teacher, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work during the Troubles more than 13 years ago.
08 November 2018
Fears For Bombardier Jobs In Northern Ireland
Thousands of Bombardier employees in Northern Ireland face uncertainty as the Canadian company has announced 5,000 job cuts globally today, Thursday 08 November. The aerospace and transportation manufacturer is set to review its Belfast operations but has not confirmed where the cuts will be made.
08 March 2007
HRC calls for improvements in treatment of women prisoners
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has marked today’s International Women’s Day by calling for improvements in the way women prisoners are treated in Northern Ireland.
24 February 2005
Dickson hits out at NIO human rights record
The outgoing Chief Commissioner of the NI Human Rights Commission has criticised the human rights record of the Northern Ireland Office during his tenure.
29 August 2014
Former US Senator In Belfast To Meet Stormont Parties
Representatives of the Stormont Executive parties are to meet today with former US Senator Gary Hart. Mr Hart is in Northern Ireland on a fact-finding mission, understood to be undertaken on behalf of US Secretary of State John Kerry. Hart arrived in Belfast from Dublin where he met party leaders, and before that he was in London.