European Parliament study shows benefits of North South Ministerial Council post-Brexit
Brian Hayes MEP today (Monday) said that Irish and EU negotiators should look to the North South Ministerial Council to regulate mutual areas of economic cooperation between North and South post-Brexit.
“The Irish border remains a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. Real and tangible solutions need to be found to ensure that we get firm commitments on protecting the Good Friday Agreement and making sure there is no hard border.
“The European Parliament last week developed a study which proposed that the North South Ministerial Council could be strengthened in order to navigate the post-Brexit environment.
“This is entirely sensible. Mutual cooperation already exists in various areas such as energy, health and education. But there has never been a need to have strict regulatory oversight of all-island cooperation. With Brexit, the legal environment will change and we need firm assurances that the all-island economy can continue to operate without strict border controls and with proper mutual recognition.
“The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) should be the body that regulates the trade between North and South with the aim of ensuring that our close links in various sectors do not become severed due to Brexit.
“The NSMC was established under the Good Friday Agreement and has six implementation bodies that ensure a common policy approach in various areas of cooperation. In reality, the NSMC has not been used to its full potential under the Good Friday Agrement; it has a broad mandate but it has not been the key player in developing North South cooperation.
“But the NSMC should be beefed up to avoid unintended consequences of Brexit. The role of the NSMC should be hardwired into the final Brexit divorce agreement document and it should be given specific areas of cooperation for which it can regulate.
“The key now is getting the Brexit talks onto phase 2 – trade negotiations. We have so many political uncertainty in the background at the moment; but getting to phase 2 of Brexit is of vital national interest. All negotiators should be open to working on solutions to get over the current impasse. Using the full potential of the North South Ministerial Council could help us get over many of the border issues that are holding back talks.
“Next Tuesday, November 28th, the European Parliament will host a public hearing on Brexit and the Irish border. This is an opportunity to develop solutions and to bring all sides together as we go into a critical three-week period where we hope to make sufficient progress by December.”