28 Apr 2017

Tusk to the UK: First Are People, Money and Ireland

Donald Tusk confirmed that EU leaders will be adamant for the order in which the Brexit negotiations will proceed. They won’t discuss any future trade relation before key issues such as “people, money and Ireland” are resolved. In an open letter to his colleagues, the president of the European Council (EC) outlined some of the main talking points at the EU27 summit, starting tomorrow.

Earlier this week, Angela Merkel had warned the British government to stop “working under illusions” about the future privileged status of the country and insisted on resolving priority questions such as: “the divorce bill”, the status of the EU migrants and the Irish border. Donald Tusk’s speech today echoed her words: “before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past,” stated the head of the EC. Additionally, he appealed to his colleagues: “to unite around this key principle”, “so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first”.

Donald Tusk’s words also hinted that EU27 is open to the idea of welcoming Northern Ireland into the bloc in the event of unification with The Republic of Ireland. According to major media sources in Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be seeking political endorsement, defending the possible future of a united Ireland. Sources close to the preparations of the summit have been quoted by Reuters as saying, “It would merely state the obvious, i.e. that also a united Ireland would continue being a member of the EU”. However, EU politicians have no intentions of interfering in the process. “Should this question arise, it would be for the peoples of Ireland and Northern Ireland to decide in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement,” a member of the EC stated to Reuters.

The Good Friday Agreement is signed by the British and Irish states in 1998. According to that, Ireland can unite if a positive referendum on both sides approve it. The current UK government has agreed that should Northern Ireland join the Republic, it ought to become EU member.

Discussions over the future of Northern Ireland after Brexit have become the apple of discord between nationalists and unionists in the National Assembly. The negotiations between the parties to form a government collapsed in January. The leaders met again yesterday but decided to seek a power-sharing agreement after the snap elections on 8 June. “All the parties involved recognize it is a vital devolved government, and all of the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement and its successors, resumes in Northern Ireland as soon as possible,” the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire said in a statement.

Last week, the British government have agreed to postpone the deadline for forming a government to 29 June.