Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Northern Irish Riddle Giving Brexit Negotiators a Headache

One of the riddles of the Brexit negotiations is the rights that citizens in Northern Ireland should have after the U.K. leaves.

As part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, British nationals living there are also entitled to Irish (and by extension EU) citizenship -- even if they’ve never set foot south of the border. While unusual, that was straightforward enough when both countries were in the EU. Now it opens up a legal and political minefield.

If you’re an EU citizen you have recourse to the European Court of Justice. But, as part of Brexit, Theresa May has vowed to end the ECJ’s jurisdiction in the U.K.

So what if, after the U.K.’s withdrawal in March 2019, you’re a citizen of Northern Ireland, and therefore live in the U.K., but want to use your European citizenship to take a case to the ECJ?

Like countless Brexit issues, there’s no easy answer. And in this case there’s the added worry of upsetting the fragile, and hard-won, peace. Negotiators say they’re beginning to make progress on this topic. But they reckon the Irish question will still throw up even trickier conundrums.

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