Northern Ireland on the cusp of change (Al Jazeera, March 2017)

Northern Ireland on the cusp of change: Concerns about border swirl as Northern Ireland faces snap elections, Brexit.

Sophie Long, Director of Communications at the Progressive Unionist Party; Pearse Doherty , Sinn Fein parliament member for Donegal South West; Stephen Kelly, CEO at Manufacturing NI; and Colin Murray, Senior lecturer in law at Newcastle University, discuss what people on both sides of the border want for the future of Northern Ireland.

The Implications of the Good Friday Agreement for UK Human-Rights Reform

Colin Murray (Newcastle), Aoife O’Donoghue (Durham) and Ben Warwick (Birmingham) have posted a working version of an article on the Belfast Agreement and human rights legislation in the UK. It will be published following edits and revisions in the Irish Yearbook of International Law (eds. Fiona de Londras and Siobhán Mullay).

The abstract is below, and the whole paper is open access here, but some of the key issues we address are:

  • Some of the history and background to rights in Northern Ireland
  • The status in international law of the Good Friday Agreement
  • The interplay of the devolution settlement and the Good Friday Agreement
  • The relationship between the UK’s Human Rights Act and the Good Friday Agreement
  • How various reform proposals interact with the Agreement
  • How reform proposals might make their way through the NI institutions (including some reflections on the implications of the recent Miller judgment)
  • International law solutions to some of the tensions between reform objectives and the Good Friday Agreement


Speculation is rife as to the impact of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement upon the Conservative Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. In the face of this speculation, the UK’s Conservative Government has provided little detail as to how UK human-rights reform will address the requirement for incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Northern Ireland settlement. We therefore analyse the Agreement as both an international treaty and peace agreement and evaluate its interrelationship with the Human Rights Act and the Northern Ireland Act. Once the hyperbole surrounding the Agreement and its attendant domestic legislation is stripped away, the effects of the 1998 settlement are in some regards more extensive than has to date been recognised, but in other respects are less far-reaching than some of the Human Rights Act’s supporters claim. The picture that emerges from our analysis is of an intricately woven constitution dependent on devolution arrangements, peace agreements, and international relationships.

The Common Travel Area: Prospects After Brexit

Maintaining the Common Travel Area that has existed between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man has been set down by the UK Prime Minister as one of her government’s 12 key negotiating objectives.

In this note (Open Access), by Sylvia de MarsColin MurrayAoife O’Donoghue and Ben Warwick, some of the functions of the CTA are described, and the possible threats to it from Brexit are explored. It is concluded that the flexibility and informality of the CTA means that while maintaining it in name is relatively easy, changes to its substance are likely. Close scruntiny of any changes to the reciprocal nature and substantive provisions of the CTA are therefore essential to assessing the success of this aspect of the UK government’s negotiations.

Response to Exiting the EU Committee, ‘The UK’s Negotiating Objectives’ Inquiry

Linked to ongoing work on the impact of various UK constitutional changes upon Northern Ireland, Dr Sylvia de MarsColin MurrayDr Aoife O’Donoghue and Dr Ben Warwick, have recently submitted evidence to the latest parliamentary inquiry.

The inquiry, this time by the Exiting the EU Committee (not to be confused with the government Department for Exiting the EU), is seeking to gather evidence on what the UK should set as its negotiating objectives.

The evidence is available Open Access here. We identify a number of points which we see as central to Northern Ireland’s interests:

The overriding objective of the negotiations should be to negotiate a settlement which is equally advantageous in all parts of the UK including the three devolved regions.

The negotiations should ensure that the particular historical, political and social contexts of Northern Ireland are kept in mind as part of the Brexit negotiations alongside other broader constitutional changes.

In this regard, the key objective for the negotiations from the perspective of Northern Ireland should be to conclude an arrangement for the land border between NI and ROI that reflects the particular economic relationships on the island, the nature of the border region and the historical significance of the border.

Such an agreement will be particularly necessary should the UK leave the single market as a re-negotiation of the Common Travel Area will at that point be necessary.

The impact on the business environment in NI needs to be considered if the UK chooses to leave the single market and complicate access to the EU market; particularly, the negotiations should have as an objective to minimise the negative impact on the agri-food sector and consumer costs in NI.

Brexit-ing Northern Ireland: The Challenges Ahead (Oxford Business Law Blog, 6th July 2016)

The votes are in, and it seems that that Northern Ireland will, against the wishes of its voters, be subject to an England-and-Wales-driven ‘Brexit’. A heightened awareness of what the consequences of the referendum will be for Northern Ireland is paramount in the negotiations that will follow…

Read this entire introduction to the Constitutional Conundrum team’s recent policy paper at the Oxford Business Law Blog, here.

Successful event on ‘UK Human Rights Reform in the Northern Ireland Context’

Part of the project team (Murray, O’Donoghue and Warwick) recently delivered a talk kindly hosted by the Transitional Justice Institute and the Human Rights Consortium. The talk addressed how proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act might affect Northern Ireland and how they might be designed. The event was attended by policy makers, academics, and students.

You can view their Policy Paper addressing these issues here.

You can view more about the event here or here.




Brexit’s Bogeyman: The Much-Maligned Court of Justice of the European Union

Fear stalks the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU. But just as Michael Gove accuses the Remain campaign of treating the UK’s voters “like mere children” by attempting to scare them off the possibility of Brexit, in the very same speech he conjures up the dark spectre Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and its insidious plans to dominate the UK’s legal systems.

Colin Murray takes a look at one of Michael Gove’s key interventions into the EU referendum debates at the Political Studies Association blog.

Continue reading “Brexit’s Bogeyman: The Much-Maligned Court of Justice of the European Union”