Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the “internationally recognised” peace treaty will be used as a “vehicle” to allow access to the bloc’s single market for Irish businesses.
There has been a vocal campaign calling for special status for Northern Ireland post-Brexit. A pro-European think tank has recommended Northern Ireland granted similar access to the Union as Norway.
The European Policy Centre suggested the area is invited into the European Economic Area, which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people for work – which are all contested provisions ahead of Brexit negotiations.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, however, ruled out the possibility, claiming all parts of the UK should leave the EU on an equal basis.
Colum Eastwood said the peace agreement could protect Northern Ireland against Brexit
I think there is an opportunity within that to protect ourselves
Mr Eastwood argued EU and Irish leaders may have to look to the Good Friday Agreement to secure the regions access to the bloc.
He told Sky New’s All Out Politics: “I think we have to go back to the Good Friday Agreement, we have to use the institutions which were agreed within it.
“We also have to remember Strand Two was about the North and South relations, I think there is an opportunity within that to protect ourselves, many of our businesses and help us have single market and customs union access.
“I think it is the vehicle we should use, use the Good Friday Agreement as a vehicle now to protecting businesses and communities across the island of Ireland.”
Mr Eastwood added: “There is an opportunity there, given the fact the international community recognises the Good Friday Agreement.”
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According to a leaked ministerial letter, Northern Ireland would have the ability to rejoin the European Union if it opts for reunification.
Unlike Scotland, which has been told to join a queue for membership, the region would not have to reapply because the Republic is an existing member state.
In pictures: Theresa May meets with EU's Tusk Thu, April 6, 2017
The two leaders held talks on Brexit negotiations
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European Council President Donald Tusk gestures to members of the media as he leaves 10 Downing street after talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in central London
According to The Times, in a leaked letter to an SDLP MP, David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, revealed the possibility.
He wrote: “If a majority of the people of Northern Ireland were ever to vote to become part of a united Ireland, the UK Government will honour its commitment to enable that to happen.”
Mr Davis added: “In that event, Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state.”