Human rights activists from both sides of the Irish border have warned “fundamental questions about human rights and equality are at stake” due to the Brexit negotiations.
In a letter to The Irish Times campaigners have called on both sides of the negotiating table to provide assurances that the “core principles of rights and equality set out in the Belfast Agreement” will be respected in the final deal when the UK leaves the European Union in 2019.
The letter specifically set out demands for “rights protected under European Union Law” to be retained, in addition to guarantees there will be no rolling back on equality rights.
Names on the letter include the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King, Academics in Human Rights from Belfast University and the Chief Executive of The Free Legal Advice Centres.
What Rights Are They Worried About?
The group list a number of different rights which they think should be protected, including the Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement. This is the piece of law that is the basis of the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland and also references cross-border institutions.
“There must continue to be equality in all areas between persons resident in Northern Ireland who identify as Irish citizens and those who identify as British citizens,” it continues. “Including in relation to access to social welfare, health services, and education.
Other areas of concern listed include making sure there is no backsliding on the protections afforded to both the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The open Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and free movement for all persons across it must be retained.
There’s also currently no enforced border between the two countries, something which has been a key focus in negotiations.
They add: “Nothing in any agreement on future Border arrangements should lead to a more restrictive system of immigration controls within Northern Ireland or on the island as a whole. In particular, no form of ad hoc or targeted controls which are based on, or are likely to lead to, racial profiling should be introduced.
Where Are We At With Brexit Anyway?
Brexit negotiations have continued to push forward in the last few weeks, although there have been a number of sticking points.
A leaving bill from the UK to the EU of £50 billion pounds has been agreed, though it has caused a backlash.
Similarly, the Irish Border is also proving a sticky issue, with the DUP saying Northern Ireland must not be treated any differently from the rest of the UK, while both Ireland and the UK are conscious there should be no hard border between the two countries.