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Good Friday Agreement gave NI's people choice of constitutional status and they've voted to stay in EU

letter of the day: brexit debate

Published 18/11/2016

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor
Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

I am not convinced by the First Minister's argument (News, November 16) that as "the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU, we will leave the EU as a whole ...".

Firstly, the media have convincingly reported that the 2016 UK-wide referendum on membership of the EU is advisory and not legally binding. The current British Government has chosen to accept that decision without question, or negotiation, but it is their choice and they were not compelled to do so.

Secondly, the 1998 Belfast (or Good Friday) Agreement is, arguably, binding, as it is not only an international treaty between the UK and the Republic, but because they were both member states of the EU and, so, are subject to its overarching legislation and rules.

And my Agreement copy observes: "The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they will: (i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain, or a sovereign united Ireland ..."

The constitutional choice exercised by the people of Northern Ireland precedes any reference to "the Union", or a united Ireland, and so takes precedence. It can be argued, during the 2016 referendum, the British Government asked the people of Northern Ireland to choose their constitutional status and they chose to remain in the EU.

The British Government were fully cognisant of the implications relating to the 1998 British-Irish Agreement when they afforded the Northern Ireland electorate that choice and are bound by its outcome - as is the EU, because it was complicit in that 1998 Agreement.

And, so, if Great Britain exits the EU, then it must do so without Northern Ireland.

BERNARD J MULHOLLAND

Belfast

Belfast Telegraph

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