London [U.K.], Oct. 4 : The Irish Government is to apply to the European Union (EU) for special status to prevent a hard border being re-established if the UK leaves the EU Customs Union.
Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan said the British and Irish governments would seek special legal status for Ireland, even though an open border between Ireland and the UK would in theory be a route through which tens of thousands of EU citizens could travel to the UK, reports The Guardian.
Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, spoke to UK's Brexit Minister David Davis on Sunday, to discuss government plans after speeches at the Conservative conference revealed a cabinet leaning towards leaving both the EU single market and the customs union.
McGuinness said the UK was facing a "head-on collision" with the EU over Brexit, and suggested Northern Ireland was likely to be "collateral damage".
The Irish government will announce that it is setting up a civic dialogue to be held in Dublin on November 2 involving political parties, business organisations and non-governmental organisations from Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Flanagan stressed the need for Brexit negotiations to take account of the Good Friday agreement under which all citizens in the north are entitled to an Irish, and therefore, an EU passport.
A legal challenge is being mounted on Tuesday in Belfast claiming that Brexit breaches the Good Friday agreement, and the Northern Ireland assembly must be consulted before the UK government starts Brexit talks with Brussels.
About 56 percent of Northern Irish voters backed the remain camp in the 23 June referendum but some unionist-dominated areas supported leave.
If the UK leaves the customs union, the EU could demand a hard border in Ireland to prevent goods flowing in and out of the EU from Northern Ireland without paying required tariffs or facing checks on rules of origin.
If the UK reverted to tariffs in line with World Trade Organisation rules, this could also spell serious trouble for agriculture in the north as tariffs are especially high for this sector.
A "hard Brexit", including a return to UK border controls, also makes it more likely that the common travel area between the Republic and the north will be abandoned, hitting the Northern Ireland economy and one of the main tenets of the peace process.
UK withdrawal from the customs union would make goods exported across the border subject to various forms of customs controls with duties determined according to complex rules of origin on each individual piece of a product assembled in Europe.