A GROUP of Irish MEPs have called for a special EU envoy for Northern Ireland to be created to ensure effective communication between political representatives on both sides.
Five Fine Gael Members of European Parliament (MEPs) have proposed the move - Seán Kelly, Frances Fitzgerald, Deirdre Clune, Maria Walsh and Colm Markey - claiming there is a need to ensure formalised communication with representatives in Northern Ireland so that any issues can be identified and addressed in good time.
The Fine Gael MEPs have proposed the creation of the new role in a letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and to the EU's chief negotiator with the UK and Vice-President of the Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.
“The unique historical, legal and social circumstances on the island of Ireland, with part of the island under the legal jurisdiction of the UK, meant that Brexit was always going to fundamentally impact Northern Ireland in particular”, Seán Kelly MEP and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament said.
Following Brexit, Northern Ireland remained inside the EU Single Market for goods under the provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
This gives the North direct access to both the EU’s single market and the internal market of the United Kingdom.
“We have already seen increases in investments in Northern Ireland as one of the benefits of the EU single-market and UK internal market access making it an attractive option for many companies,” Mr Kelly added.
“I hear from business leaders all the time about the opportunities this arrangement has for Northern Ireland and the possibility of enhanced economic prosperity should be highlighted at every turn.”
The MEPs have backed the recently announced Windsor Framework as a positive step forward in EU-UK relations that will significantly reduce checks and paperwork.
Within that agreement, the Stormont Brake gives the Northern Ireland Assembly the power to object to changes to EU rules that apply in Northern Ireland.
“This mechanism is designed to be used in the most exceptional circumstances, therefore it makes complete sense that we should have direct and official lines of communication with representatives in Northern Ireland so that we avoid any major issues,” Mr Kelly said.
“Therefore, the Fine Gael Delegation in the European Parliament is calling for the creation of an EU Special Representative (Envoy) to Northern Ireland with sufficient dedicated resources.”
He added: "Due to the type of Brexit chosen by the UK government, it was inevitable, albeit unfortunate, that some sort of democratic deficit would exist in Northern Ireland thereafter.
“A Special Representative from the EU would help reduce this deficit by engaging with Northern Ireland's political representatives and public officials to explain upcoming EU legislation and listen to any concerns.”