Northern Ireland

Leaders to set out how Northern Ireland 'could rejoin EU'

Gerry Adams and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
Image caption Gerry Adams (left) speaking to reporters in west Belfast, accompanied by Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

European leaders are expected to spell out how Northern Ireland could rejoin the EU after any future border poll.

The leaders are meeting at a summit in Brussels over the weekend to confirm their guidelines for the Brexit negotiations.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said any discussions around the potential for a united Ireland within Europe are to be welcomed.

But the DUP's Ian Paisley said the discussions mean little in reality.

'Fantasy politics'

He said: "It falls in to a hypothetical fantasy politics point of view, what would happen if?

"The fact of the matter is, if there was a border poll, people would know that they were voting to leave the United Kingdom and go into a Europe that could not pay for Northern Ireland."

Reports suggest Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny will ask his EU partners to back the idea of Northern Ireland automatically joining the EU if people vote to unite with the Republic.

Mr Adams said: "One would presume that the European Commission, recognising the international treaty which is the Good Friday Agreement, would also recognise the right of people here to be part of a United Ireland if that's what they vote for in a referendum on Irish unity.

"The question is this, will that be a note in the minutes, or will that be a directive as part of these guidelines.

"This is what happened with East Germany, it's a very modest, simple, but very welcome step in the right direction, to recognise if there is to be a united Ireland the entire island would be within the European Union."

UK government view

The Brexit Secretary David Davis said in March that the government's view on Northern Ireland's status within the European Union, in the event of a future border poll in favour of a united Ireland was that should the people of Northern Ireland vote to leave the UK, they would "be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state".

Mr Davis made the remarks in a letter to the SDLP MP Mark Durkan.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brexit Secretary David Davis has previously stated the government's view in the event of a future border poll

During last year's EU referendum, Northern Ireland voted to remain by a majority of 56% to 44%, but the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%.

The EU issued draft guidelines on Brexit on 31 March.

Official talks will not begin until after the UK general election on 8 June.

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