Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement Joint Committee Warns of Brexit Human Rights and Equality Concerns
13th March 2018
Without the urgent implementation of safeguarding measures, the EU Withdrawal Agreement risks causing a difference in rights protections on a North-South basis, contrary to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998. That is the advice contained in a statement released today by the Joint Committee established under the Agreement to consider human rights issues on the island of Ireland.
The Joint Committee consists of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The policy statement directed to the UK and Irish Governments outlines six requirements for the final EU withdrawal agreement to meet the obligations of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement:
1. Ensure no diminution of rights within the withdrawal agreement.
2. Safeguard the North-South equivalency of rights on an ongoing basis.
3. Guarantee equality of citizenship within Northern Ireland.
4. Protect border communities and migrant workers
5. Ensure evolving justice arrangements do no water down rights.
6. Ensure continued right to participate in public life for EU citizens in Northern Ireland.
Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“The peace process was built on a shared vision of equal rights and equal respect on the island of Ireland, as framed by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. This Joint Statement sets out how negotiators on both sides of Brexit can ensure that their stated commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement can be carried through to the final deal. We are now seeking assurances from the UK and Irish Governments that no rights are diluted as a result of Brexit.”
The Joint Committee’s recommendations include that:
· the Withdrawal Agreement to provide for the continuing North-South equivalence of rights, post-Brexit, as established under the 1998 Agreement.
· the EU seek a legal commitment to retaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights and that rights can be enforced by the Court of Justice of the EU in Northern Ireland.
· all the people of Northern Ireland retain the right to stand and vote in European Parliament elections.
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission stated:
“Progress towards a lasting resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland has been grounded in the provisions of the 1998 Agreement. We are concerned that the UK withdrawal from the EU threatens to undermine the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement by creating uncertainty for human rights protections within Northern Ireland. The Joint Committee statement outlines the areas that need to be addressed to mitigate concerns around citizenship rights and North-South equivalent equality and human rights protections. We will continue to assist both the UK and the Irish Governments as we move through this process, as we want the best deal for human rights for everyone in Northern Ireland going forward.”
Notes to editor:
The Joint Committee Policy statement on the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union is attached with this release.
The Joint Committee policy statement is supported by independent research, also published today produced by academics at Newcastle University, Durham University, and the University of Birmingham and is available at www.ihrec.ie and www.nihrc.org
In February, Simon Coveney T.D, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit, met the Joint Committee on the means of addressing the risks and challenges for people’s human rights and equality as the UK withdraws from the EU.
The Joint Committee Established Under the Good Friday Agreement
The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement‘s section on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunities, provides for a joint committee of representatives of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, as a North-South forum for consideration of human rights issues in the island of Ireland.
The founding statutes of both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have ensured a formal basis in law for the Joint Committee.
The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, as an international treaty, recognised by the United Nations, laid down a mandate for both national human rights institutions, and the mechanism to ensure strong cooperation between them.
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
14 Mar 2018