Congress Statement on Proposed Brexit Agreement

17 Oct 2019

Brexit image

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions notes the agreement on Brexit arrived at between the EU 27 and the UK government earlier today. We are currently analysing the detail of this proposal and its implications. As an all island body representing workers across the island who come from a number of traditions, we must analyse the text from this context.

We must also assess whether it meets the objective of Congress that there should be no return to a hard border in Ireland and that the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement should be protected. It should also avoid disruption to cross border travel by workers and their families or to business and trade.

The Agreement proposes that Northern Ireland should remain in the UK customs union but that it can also avail of EU customs arrangements and single market. In this way, it will avoid the introduction of a hard border and customs posts between NI and the Republic of Ireland. It also gives the Northern Ireland assembly the right to opt out of these arrangements in the future if a democratic majority so decides.

It remains to be seen whether the Agreement made between the UK government and the EU will receive the support of the House of Commons. It is also unclear as to the protections it provides for workers in NI and whether existing environmental and other standards will be maintained in the UK following Brexit.

The ICTU greatly regrets any form of Brexit. It seems on our initial assessment that this text is a slightly weaker version of the original Withdrawal Agreement with a new mechanism to replace the NI backstop. However, it appears that it will essentially do what a backstop was intended to do with some democratic oversight from the NI Assembly.

What is critical if Brexit is to occur is that we have an agreement that protects workers and their families as well as the NI peace agreements. We will examine the full text in detail in order to assess whether this Agreement achieves these objectives and will issue further comment in due course.

For further information contact:

Conor Kavanagh, ICTU Communications office on 08 68116607