NORTHERN Ireland should be allowed to seamlessly re-join the EU after Brexit in the event of a vote for Irish reunification, European leaders have decided.
European Union leaders are set to meet at a Brexit summit on Saturday where the prospect of a united Ireland referendum will be discussed.
The announcement should thereafter be made that a potential united Ireland would be an automatic member of the EU, according to diplomats.
"It would merely state the obvious, i.e. that also a united Ireland would continue being a member of the EU," a source close to the European Council told Reuters.
"The EU does of course not take a stance on the possibility of a united Ireland. Should this question arise, it would be for the peoples of Ireland and Northern Ireland to decide in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement."
The decision to allow a united Ireland automatic EU membership would follow the example of German reunification in 1990, when East Germany was automatically absorbed into the bloc.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 allows a referendum on reuniting Ireland whenever there is ‘reason to believe’ a majority of voters would be in favour.
A letter written by Donald Tusk, European Council president, sent to members of the European Council ahead of Saturday’s summit, makes it clear that Ireland is one of the top priorities for the upcoming Brexit talks.
Before discussing EU-UK future, we must first sort out our past. This is the only possible approach to Brexit talks.https://t.co/D2qIqhvBtu
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) 28 April 2017
“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 the letter, released on Friday.
“Only once we collectively determine in the European Council that sufficient progress has been made on all these issues, will we be in a position to hold preparatory talks on the future relationship with the UK.
“I would like us to unite around this key principle during the upcoming summit, so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first.”
Any EU declaration is "bound to raise fears that Brexit could trigger the unravelling of the UK", according to the Guardian, although it adds there is little support for unification in Northern Ireland.
Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU in June last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Brexit negotiations should take into account the possibility of a future poll on a united Ireland in the wake of Britain’s eventual exit.