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Lawyers In For Britain: The UK and the EU: Benefits, misconceptions and alternatives banner

Some ask whether the UK would be stronger if it left the EU. We believe there is no evidence that this would be the case. Indeed, there is a real risk that a UK decision to leave the EU risks damaging the cohesiveness of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories.

  • Border controls could be re-imposed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK’s only EU land border is between Northern Ireland (“NI”) and the Republic of Ireland (“ROI”). An open border between the ROI and NI was key to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. From 1969 onwards, the NI/ROI border was subject to heavy control by the British and Irish armed forces.[1] EU membership brought an end to customs checks,[2] and there are no passport controls for British and Irish citizens. The UK and ROI are part of a Common Travel Area, so that although the ROI and UK are not part of the Schengen Area,[3] their citizens do not currently require passports for travel between the two countries.[4] If the UK were to leave the EU, checks are likely to be required to control goods and persons crossing into and out of the EU (Ireland).
  • UK departure from the EU could result in asymmetric citizenship within the UK. The people of NI are entitled to citizenship both of ROI and the UK.[5] This entitlement would presumably not change on UK departure from the EU, leading to an unusual situation whereby those in NI who claim Irish citizenship would be entitled to EU citizenship and all the rights that this entails (e.g. EU free movement; the right to reside, study or work in the EU; non-discrimination on grounds of nationality; diplomatic and consular assistance), whereas all other UK citizens would not.
  • Wales and NI face disproportionate economic consequences were the UK to leave the EU. Wales and NI are net beneficiaries of EU membership: they receive, respectively, £83 and £30 per head annually in EU funds for infrastructure and industry development alone.[6] Indeed, agriculture is a key sector for both NI and Wales, a sector for which EU subsidies and exports are important.[7] It has been suggested that Wales and NI “would probably demand more Westminster spending to make up the shortfall after Brexit”.[8]
  • UK departure from the EU could result in another referendum on Scottish independence. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru leader Leanna Wood have called for UK departure from the EU to require a “double majority”, so that each of the UK’s constituent nations would have a separate vote on the UK’s departure from the EU.[9] In the event that Scotland votes in favour of EU membership but the overall result is for exit from the EU, Scotland’s First Minister has said that this could open the door to another referendum on Scottish independence from the UK.[10]
  • UK departure from the EU could cause instability in Gibraltar. The economy of Gibraltar – the self-governing British Overseas Territory that borders with Spain[11] – is based on industries which rely on access to the Single Market (e.g. financial services, online gaming).[12] In addition, 10,000 people cross the border from Spain each day to travel to Gibraltar to work and there is a real prospect of customs and passport controls being imposed or the border being closed again.[13] Importantly, there are also fears that “Britain’s exit from the Union would surely invite Spain to push its long-standing claims to sovereignty more aggressively”.[14] Consequently, Gibraltar may call for its vote in the referendum to be counted separately to the rest of the UK/the constituent nations.[15]

 

  1. Diez et al, The European Union and Border Conflicts: The Power of Integration and Association, CUP:2008, pages 34-36 – https://books.google.be/books?isbn=1139470752.
  2. Customs checks were imposed by the Irish Free State from April 1923, and were maintained until the creation of the Single Market on 1 January 1993.
  3. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/index_en.htm. The Irish position on its Schengen membership appears to be due to its commitment to the CTA and compatibility with the UK’s position on free movement of persons (The Scottish Government, Scotland in the European Union, November 2013, Annex 7 – http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/11/5894/16). On this basis, it is unclear whether the CTA would continue in its current form post UK departure from the EU.
  4. In operation since the 1920s, the CTA was “purely an administrative arrangement until it was given statutory recognition in the UK under the Immigration Act 1971 and the Immigration (Control of Entry through the Republic of Ireland) Order 1972” (UK Border Control, cited in The Scottish Government Scotland in the European Union, November 2013, Annex 7 – http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/11/5894/16).
  5. Article 1(vi), The Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Ireland – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136652/agreement.pdf; see also, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, FAQs about Irish Citizenship and Naturalisation, Q2 – http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Frequently%20asked%20Questions%20about%20Irish%20Citizenship%20and%20Naturalisation#Q2.
  6. S. Tilford, J. Springford, Twelve Things You Need To Know About Brexit, Prospect Magazine, 10 December 2015 – http://www.cer.org.uk/in-the-press/twelve-things-you-need-know-about-brexit. On the negative economic effects of UK departure from the EU on NI more generally see e.g., C. Flanagan, What Brexit Means for Northern Ireland, Speech, 26 November 2015 – https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/speeches/speeches-archive/2015/november/what-brexit-means-for-northern-ireland, and L. Budd, The Consequences for the Northern Ireland Economy from a United Kingdom exit from the European Union, Briefing Note: CETI/OU, 2/15, March 2015 – http://crossborder.ie/site2015/wp-content/uploads015/11/2015-03-22-brexit-ceti-specialist-advisor.pdf. On the negative economic effects of UK departure from the EU on Wales more generally, see e.g., UK Parliament, Exiting the EU: impact in key UK policy areas, Briefing Paper 07213, 4 June 2015 – http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7213#fullreport, and FUW, FUW highlights danger of Brexit during leaders’ debate, 11 January 2016 – http://fuw.org.uk/fuw-highlights-danger-of-brexit-during-leaders-debate/.
  7. See A. Evans-Pritchard, Brexit is a life or death matter for Britain’s farmers, The Telegraph, 1 November 2015 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11967049/Brexit-is-a-life-or-death-matter-for-Britains-farmers.html. See also Phinnemore, Galligan et al., To Remain or Leave? Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum, EU Debate NI Briefing paper, pages 18 and 25 – http://democracyandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/To-Remain-or-Leave-Northern-Ireland-and-the-EU-Referendum.pdf.
  8. S. Tilford, J. Springford, Twelve Things You Need To Know About Brexit, Prospect Magazine, 10 December 2015 – http://www.cer.org.uk/in-the-press/twelve-things-you-need-know-about-brexit. See also S. Nixon, Irish Question Looms Large Over British EU Exit Debate, Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2016 – http://www.wsj.com/articles/irish-question-looms-large-over-british-eu-exit-debate-1452712128, and Phinnemore, Galligan et al., To Remain or Leave? Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum, EU Debate NI Briefing paper, pages 32-33 – http://democracyandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/To-Remain-or-Leave-Northern-Ireland-and-the-EU-Referendum.pdf.
  9. C. Hope, Scottish and Welsh nationalists pledge to stop the English leaving EU, The Telegraph, 8 February 2015 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11398744/Scottish-and-Welsh-nationalists-pledge-to-stop-the-English-leaving-EU.html.
  10. J. Crisp, Brexit will lead to clamour for Scottish independence, says Sturgeon, Euractiv, 2 June 2015 – http://www.euractiv.com/sections/uk-europe/brexit-will-lead-clamour-scottish-independence-says-sturgeon-315060.
  11. Gibraltar forms part of the EU under Article 355(3) TFEU that provides that “the Treaties shall apply to the European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible”. However, Gibraltar’s membership is distinct to that of the UK given that it is excluded from the Customs Union, Common Commercial Policy, Common Agricultural Policy and the requirements to levy VAT. The fundamental rights of free movement of people, capital and services apply to the territory – http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:12012E/TXT.
  12. T. Hale, Gibraltar warns over prospect of Brexit, Financial Times, 13 April 2015 – https://next.ft.com/content/6c841232-df5f-11e4-b6da-00144feab7de.
  13. Ibid.
  14. The Report Company, Brexit – a bet too far for Gibraltar?, The Guardian, 8 October 2015 – http://www.theguardian.com/the-report-company/2015/oct/08/brexit-a-bet-too-far-for-gibraltar. See also F. Picardo, ‘Brexit’ would destroy Gibraltar, Politico, 5 March 2015 – http://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-would-destroy-gilbraltar/.
  15. In the event of there being a referendum, each of the areas that vote, each of the nations that vote, Gibraltar included, should be counted separately”, F. Picardo, chief minister and leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour party quoted in T. Hale, Gibraltar warns over prospect of Brexit, Financial Times, 13 April 2015 – https://next.ft.com/content/6c841232-df5f-11e4-b6da-00144feab7de.