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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission calls for clarity around the rights of frontier workers

03 Oct 2023

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is today launching its report ‘Frontier Workers and their Families: Rights after Brexit’, at the MAC, Belfast. Written by academics Dr Sylvia de Mars and Professor Charlotte O’Brien, it calls for greater clarity for frontier workers so that they continue to enjoy the same rights as before the UK left the EU.

The research explores the effects of Brexit on the rights held by frontier workers on the island of Ireland. There is a particular focus on those frontier workers who hold rights within the United Kingdom (by either working or residing there) and the potential protection afforded by Article 2 of Windsor Framework. *

Article 2 commits the UK Government to ensuring certain equality and human rights are not reduced in Northern Ireland post Brexit.

The report highlights the complexity of the legal protections that frontier workers have in Northern Ireland under the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement and looks at additional sources of rights including Article 2 of the Windsor Framework.

It also sets out the steps that the UK Government should take to improve and preserve the rights of frontier workers and their families, including a change in definition of the term ‘frontier worker’ so that all frontier workers are treated as such and better enforcement of their rights under the Common Travel Area arrangements.

Speaking at the launch, Chief Commissioner, Alyson Kilpatrick, said:

“This research complements other pieces of work that examine rights issues after withdrawal from the EU. This research will help clarify how frontier workers’ rights are protected by Article 2 of the Windsor Framework.”



*A frontier worker is an EU law concept describing an EU national who works in one Member State and lives in a different Member State. (The term Member State here encompasses the UK.)

Read the report here: Publication - Frontier Workers and their Families: Rights after Brexit | Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (

About the NIHRC’s role after Brexit

Since 1 January 2021, both the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission have had duties and powers to monitor, supervise, advise, enforce, and report on the UK Government’s commitment in Article 2 of the Windsor Framework.

Report’s authors:

Dr Sylvia de Mars is a Reader at Newcastle University Law School. She has given evidence to numerous Parliamentary select committees on topics related to Brexit and between 2018 and 2020 she was also employed as a Senior Researcher in EU and International Law and Policy in the House of Commons Library.

Professor Charlotte O’Brien leads the ESRC-funded EU Rights & Brexit Hub at University of York Law School. She is an analytical expert in the EU Commission’s Free Movement and Social Security Coordination network and recently was named Legal Academic of the Year at the Inspirational Women in Law 2022 Awards.

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