I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 to 58, inclusive, together.
In the context of the UK withdrawal from the EU, the Government is determined to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts is fully protected, including the provisions relating to citizenship.
The Government appreciates the solidarity and support which has been shown by all of our EU partners in respect of Ireland’s unique issues and concerns, including the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
On 8 December last, a Joint Report between the EU and UK negotiators was agreed, and this included important commitments in respect of protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. In Paragraph 52, the EU and the UK acknowledge that the Good Friday Agreement recognises the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British or both and be accepted as such. The Joint Report also confirms that the people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland. Both parties agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement should respect and be without prejudice to the rights, opportunities and identity that come with European Union citizenship for such people, and that the next phase of negotiations would examine arrangements required to give effect to the ongoing exercise of, and access to, their EU rights, opportunities and benefits.
This was reflected in the draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that is part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, published by the European Commission on 18 February.
Discussions on the rights of individuals are ongoing as part of the Phase 2 negotiations on issues related to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Further engagement is needed on which EU rights, opportunities or benefits can be exercised by the people of Northern Ireland who are Irish and therefore EU citizens, when they are resident in Northern Ireland, which will be outside the territory of the European Union after the UK departure.
As the UK leaves the European Union, there is an onus on its Government to ensure that it provides as necessary for the recognition in the Joint Report that the people of Northern Ireland who choose to identify as Irish, and therefore as citizens of the EU, can continue to enjoy the rights, opportunities and benefits of EU citizenship, including where they reside in Northern Ireland.
At the same time, there is an obligation on the UK Government under the Good Friday Agreement to uphold the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose.
The means by which both of these obligations can be upheld by the UK requires further discussion between the EU and the UK. As in all other areas of the Article 50 negotiations, the operation of EU law will also need to be respected.
The Government will continue to engage intensively on these issues in order to ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, including the citizenship provisions.