Brexit ‘Dogma’ Puts Northern Ireland at Risk of Terrorism, Hain SaysBy
U.K., EU discuss Northern Irish border this week in Brussels
Former Northern Ireland secretary plans to amend Brexit Bill
The “hard dogma” of those who want maximum separation from the European Union after Brexit risks bringing “bombing and shooting” back to Northern Ireland, the U.K’s former top official to the province said.
Northern Ireland is a key sticking point in Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, because her promise to keeping the province’s border with Ireland free of checkpoints appears incompatible with the decision to remove the whole of the U.K. from the EU customs union. A return to a so-called hard border also risks undermining the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace after decades of violence between unionists wanting the province to remain in the U.K., and republicans seeking a united Ireland.
“I have yet to see anybody provide a sensible solution to the Irish border issue and Good Friday Agreement without both sides of the border being in the customs union,” former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said in an interview Tuesday. “A lot of the hard Brexiteers claim they want to see the current open border maintained, but they are dogmatic in their insistence on Brexit at any cost.”
The accord is being “rubbished by the hard Brexiteers,” which bolsters efforts by dissident Irish Republican Army groups to “garner public support for their bombing and shooting,” he said. “It opens the door to the return of terrorism that Northern Ireland mercifully has not experienced for over a decade.”
Hain, an opposition Labour Party lawmaker now in Parliament’s upper House of Lords, has cross-party support for an amendment to protect the status of the Good Friday accord in the legislation for leaving the EU. The lords are likely to vote in April unless May’s government makes clear headway on the issue.
Hain’s remarks echo those of Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney, who condemned as “reckless” pro-Brexit Labour lawmaker Kate Hoey’s comment to the Huffington Post that the Good Friday Agreement is “not sustainable in the long term.”
Conservative Party lawmaker Owen Paterson, himself a former secretary to Northern Ireland, also tweeted earlier this month that the Good Friday Agreement had “outlived its use.”
The row comes as U.K. and EU negotiators discuss Ireland and the border issue this week in Brussels. Current Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will also make a statement to Parliament about the Northern Ireland assembly’s failure to reach agreement over fresh-power sharing talks -- one of the key components of the peace agreement.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said in Vienna on Tuesday that the U.K. government is not seeking to dismantle the accord. “I’m not conscious of anybody talking down the Good Friday Agreement. Everything we are doing is aimed at ensuring we meet every aspect of it,” he said.