European council president Donald Tusk said today that the UK government must settle the issues of “people, money and Ireland” before negotiating its future relationship with the EU.
“In order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said in a letter ahead of this weekend’s summit.
“In other words, before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past,” he added.
Tusk’s comments come amid speculation surrounding Irish reunification and the potential break-up of the UK.
European leaders could recognise a united Ireland after Brexit paving the way for the north to rejoin the EU, the Financial Times reported.
Diplomats are expected to ask leaders of the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member countries to endorse the idea in a summit on Saturday.
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British prime minister Theresa May has vowed to uphold the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
It allows for a referendum on Irish reunification, where there is reason to believe a majority would be in favor.
At present, there isn’t.
A recent poll found that in Northern Ireland a clear majority of voters — 62 percent — want the territory to remain part of the UK, while only 22 percent support a united Ireland.
In February, Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny said avoiding a post-Brexit “hard border” was vital for the republic’s national interest.
“It is clear that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland continue strongly to support the current political settlement, including Northern Ireland’s continuing position within the UK,” a UK government source told the Financial Times.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has already called for a Scottish independence referendum within two years.