European leaders to decide if a 'United Ireland' could join the EU

Brendan Cole
Ireland

European leaders will be asked if they back the idea of a united Ireland within the European Union after Brexit.

EU leaders will meet at a summit on Saturday (29 April) to discuss guidelines for the Brexit talks and will be asked to consider, in the event of Northern Ireland voting for Irish reunification, whether it could join the EU when Britain leaves the bloc, the Financial Times reports.

Trending: Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding anniversary: Six years of photos of the royal couple

Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, a referendum on reunification can be held in the province if there is evidence a majority would back it.

The Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, has said he wants the final Brexit treaty to have a reference to a possible "united Ireland". If this wording is used at the start of talks, it will be seen as a coup ahead of Kenny stepping down within weeks, the FT says.

Don't miss: Father kicked off Delta Air Lines flight for needing to use the bathroom

However, this appeal to European leaders over Northern Ireland's EU status will raise concerns that the terms of Brexit could hasten the splintering of the United Kingdom, especially as Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has renewed her calls for a Scottish independence referendum.

EU leaders may also be cautious about encouraging similar deals with breakaway movements on the continent such as in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

Most popular: Watch The Simpsons' latest parody of Donald Trump's first 100 days in office

Brexit dominating cross-border Irish politics

With its border with the UK, which is its biggest trading partner, Ireland does not want to see a hard Brexit which would pose questions about its constitutional future and could lead to a hard border with Northern Ireland for the first time since 1998.

Brexit is colouring politics on both sides of the Irish border, especially as Northern Ireland is currently deadlocked after the collapse of Stormont's power-sharing arrangement.

Talks are ongoing over an electoral pact between pro-Remain parties to fight Northern Ireland's position post-Brexit. The Irish nationalists Sinn Féin say they want a "progressive alliance" to fight a hard Brexit.

The former Irish Prime Minister, John Bruton, told the Irish Times that the Brexit strategy of British Prime Minister Theresa May would "do incalculable damage to this island, politically, emotionally and economically".

You may be interested in:

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes