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Brexit: Jamie Bryson taking legal action against Boris Johnson as loyalist anger reaches 'boiling point'

Loyalist blogger claims deal "threatens his right to identify as British"

Jamie Bryson has launched legal action against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Jamie Bryson has launched legal action against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has launched legal action against Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his Brexit withdrawal deal.

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Mr Bryson has issued a pre-action letter to Boris Johnson, accusing him of erecting an economic barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The letter claims that the arrangements threaten his right to identify as British.

Mr Bryson claims the terms of the deal breach the Good Friday Agreement and threaten peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

He further alleges that it contravenes his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The legal action comes after Mr Bryson said that anger in the loyalist community had reached "boiling point" over the PM's deal.

He was speaking following a meeting of unionists and loyalists at the Con Club on Belfast's Upper Newtownards Road on Monday evening.

Loyalists arrive for a meeting last night at The Con Club in east Belfast to discuss Brexit
Loyalists arrive for a meeting last night at The Con Club in east Belfast to discuss Brexit

The meeting was called to discuss opposition to the Prime Minister's withdrawal deal which would create a trade border in the Irish Sea and leave Northern Ireland aligned with the EU.

It has been reported that the meeting was attended by a number of high-ranking members of loyalist paramilitaries, including the UVF and UDA.

Mr Bryson was one of the organisers of the meeting and said that strong views were expressed.

"Last night in the meeting, one after another, former loyalist prisoners, former members of the security forces, ordinary unionists stood up one by one and denounced the peace process with many people calling for loyalist organisations to withdraw support from the peace process," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show.

The loyalist blogger said people were asking what loyalism and unionism had ever got out of the peace process and that some attendees wanted to end all engagement with the Irish government and cross-community bodies.

He denied that the purpose of the event was to send a "thinly veiled threat".

Billy Hutchinson
Billy Hutchinson

Mr Bryson said that the European Union had sent the "dangerous message" that the threat of violence appears to work. He said that having seen the threat of violence avoid a return to a hard border many unionists may think that similar threats may prevent a border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Bryson would not say if representatives of the UVF and UDA were in attendance at the meeting but said that every section of loyalism and unionism was represented.

He said that there was "concern that what the IRA couldn't do with 30 years of terrorism we are being walked into with this betrayal act".

Mr Bryson said he had tried to warn people about the strength of feeling within the community but had been ignored.

"That anger is real and the British and Irish governments should listen to that, should understand that and need to step back from that," he said.

"If you had heard some of the statements and comments made last night by people in that room you would be absolutely shocked."

It was reported that one speaker at the meeting said "whatever is needed" must be done to oppose the Brexit withdrawal deal.

Mr Bryson said he would never advocate violence or breaking the law "in any shape or form".

He arrived at the meeting with Stephen Matthews, who has been named as leader of the east Belfast UVF, a claim he strongly denies.

The loyalist blogger said he had "no issue" arriving with Mr Matthews.

"Whenever the talks were ongoing the IRA army council were walking the corridors of Stormont, so if it's alright for the IRA army council to walk the corridors of Stormont then it's alright for loyalist ex-prisoners to come to the Con Club in east Belfast and express their views."

Mr Bryson said the anger was at "boiling point" from the grassroots level up.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson also expressed his concern about where the Brexit process was heading.

"Brexit has divided the UK so we can see and hear the division," the Belfast councillor said.

"My issue is that we don't know what the end game is yet. We need to know what that is.

"The issue isn't Brexit it is the constitutional position and the two are being confused".

Additional reporting by PA

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