Northern Ireland and ‘Brexit’: The European Economic Area Option
12 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 May 2018
Date Written: April 4, 2017
UK withdrawal from the EU poses many challenges for Northern Ireland. The preferred option of Northern Ireland's First Minister and deputy First Minister is, in many respects, for the status quo to be maintained. An approach that could mitigate some of the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and maintain much of the economic status quo is for Northern Ireland to become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). This paper sets out what the EEA offers and highlights how EEA membership might be achieved as well as the issues it raises. In the EEA, Northern Ireland would retain full access to the Single Market. It would continue to be part of a European market with the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. EEA membership would also permit some citizenship rights to be maintained. It would not be a panacea, however. It would also bring with it political and legal challenges. But it is a known arrangement and would therefore ensure a significant degree of certainty.
Keywords: Brexit, Northern Ireland, European Economic Area, EEA
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