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Former EU President Pat Cox calls on politicians ‘to build on rights not privileges’ on the back of Brexit at Newry Chamber Conference

At an event hosted by Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade, Former EU President, Pat Cox laid out the future scenarios to Businesses, Community leaders and Politicians in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. 

He commented that in the aftermath of the UK decision to leave the EU, businesses are functioning at a time of high uncertainty involving many actors, interests and moving parts.

“Uncertainty creates a vacuum easily filled by speculation which in turn reinforces a sense of anxiety.  This is accentuated by the inability of the British authorities, for the moment, to clarify what they want by way of a future relationship with the EU 27 and by the determination of the latter to insist on ‘no negotiations without notification’,’ Cox told delegates in the Canal Court Hotel.

A key focus of his presentation was to anchor the debate in the knowledge and reassurance that Ireland has exercised her sovereignty to be at the very heart of EU decision-making and will mobilise the goodwill and support of larger players as a matter of right and not of privilege under the rule of law.  “The worst thing we can do is to have a peripheral mentality,” he said. 

In this context his discussion and presentation drew very interesting insights on some of the accumulated inheritance of EU law and practice that can be mobilised in Ireland’s interest.

Speaking on the Common Travel Area (CTA), Mr Cox informed delegates that the first legal recognition of the CTA between Ireland and the UK is EU based and contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam which entered into force on 1st May 1999.  He added, “Thus our discussions with the EU 27 are not starting as a blank sheet but as the inheritance of what is already there and must be built on as a matter of right not privileges”.     

Speaking on the issue of a border poll, Mr Cox laid out the scenario whereby if the UK should exit the EU but at some future date was to decide to vote for a United Ireland, as foreseen as a possibility in the Belfast Agreement, then the reintegration precedent of East Germany with West Germany provides a fast track and a template which should be easily accommodated through Article 23. 

“In European terms this was a territorial enlargement without a new accession since the Federal Republic of Germany already was a full member state and so no Treaty amendment of EC primary law was required”.