To: The the members of the European Council, Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of the Republic of Ireland, and the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom under Article 50.2 TEU
Subject: Unlocking the deadlock on Brexit negotiations / Schengen-like solution for (Northern) Ireland
As an involved and committed citizen of the European Union and writer on numerous subjects related to governance, politics and economics, I want to express my concerns about a matter which effects all citizens of our European Union.
The Good Friday agreement, at a high level, centres around the political and human rights of, and the unrestricted interaction between, the peoples on the Irish Island. It resulted in the removal of security checkpoints from the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The GF-agreement calls for normalisation and de-escalation of security arrangements consistent with a level which is normal in a peaceful society. The agreement does not contain any (direct) reference to the transfer of good and services cross-border. This, nevertheless, has become an extremely contentious issue in the Brexit negotiations, mainly because cross border interaction of people, goods and services have been approached as part of one and the same problem/issue. I do not believe that to be necessary.
The UK nor Ireland are part of Schengen. This opens the opportunity for them to enter into a specific Schengen-like agreement which would facilitate the free movement of people between Ireland and Northern-Ireland (which is a requirement under the GF-agreement anyway). Since the passage between Northern Ireland and the UK ‘mainland’ would already require a photo ID, border control at the UK ‘mainland’-end would be business as usual as far as individuals are concerned.
The Good Friday agreement does not cover goods and services. The current free movement of goods and services were (again) made possible by the Good Friday agreement, but has not necessarily been the intended objective of that agreement. After Brexit, the free movement requirements, as far as related to (people,) goods and services will disappear, not only between the UK and the rest of the EU but specifically between Ireland and Northern-Ireland as well. This combination between the free flow of people and stricter border controls on goods is not wholly without precedent. Switzerland is part of Schengen, but despite being in a close customs union with the EU, does exercise border controls on the goods transported into its country. This causes congestion and delays at the border, but if adequately channelled and organised this should in no way interfere with the objectives of the Good Friday agreements.
The 12 priorities set out by Theresa May on January 17,2017, have effectively been neutralized in the course of the two-year negotiation process and the negotiations have ultimately resulted in a nearly balanced withdrawal agreement. The one exception being the ‘Backstop’ which puts the UK at the leash of the EU going forward. On the long run this will work against all parties involved. It is now time to stop escalating a position that has served it’s intended objective and seek a way forward which keeps the best interests of all the people involved at heart.The approach described above would enable an exit which satisfies both the interests of the people of the Irish Isle as well as respects the lawful decision of the people of the UK to leave the EU. I believe that to be satisfying to all concerned.
Mark J. Goudsmit LL.M
Citizen of the Netherlands