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Brexit: Loyalist Bryson warns of 'mass resistance' from unionist community

Jamie Bryson
Jamie Bryson
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has claimed there will be "mass resistance" by unionists if Boris Johnson's Brexit deal is approved by Parliament.

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He was speaking after several hundred people gathered at the Con Club in east Belfast on Monday night to vent their fury at the Prime Minister's proposals.

Further meetings are planned over coming weeks, including one in Mary Street Orange Hall in Newtownards on Friday.

"If this deal passes, there will be mass resistance from the unionist community," Mr Bryson said. "There are many different views on what form it will take."

Asked if it could involve the use of violence, the loyalist blogger said: "I wouldn't advocate violence, but there are people who feel that republicans have been rewarded because of their threat of violence over Brexit."

Mr Bryson yesterday issued a pre-action legal letter to Mr Johnson, accusing him of creating an economic barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It demands that the Government withdraws its Withdrawal Agreement Bill from Parliament and takes no further steps to create a frontier down the Irish Sea.

If those undertakings are not forthcoming by midday today, Mr Bryson will initiate judicial review proceedings, and seek leave for a full hearing.

Monday night's meeting was attended by members of the East and South Belfast UVF, North Down UDA and Mid-Ulster paramilitaries.

Some local DUP and PUP members attended along with former Parachute Regiment and UDR members. Prominent loyalists included Stephen Matthews, Dee Stitt, Jim Spence and Matt Kincaid.

One loyalist source said it was a gathering of those at "the extreme end of loyalism" but the political views aired were representative of their community.

"We are not close to a situation involving violence, but there were people in the room who would turn to it from all the organisations and they were concerned enough to show up," he said.

The source insisted there was no antipathy towards the DUP. "What happened was seen as a betrayal by Boris Johnson, not by the DUP," he said. "The DUP are viewed as being the key to unlocking this. The DUP can deliver changes to the Brexit deal. The danger will be if they don't."

The loyalist source said there was "a big push" to get people on the electoral register before a likely imminent Westminster election. He said there was considerable anger at Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, although loyalists recognised that the "threat to the Union is of an economic united Ireland, not a political one". PUP councillor Billy Hutchinson didn't attend the meeting, but said: "There is a lot of anger out there. People need to stay calm and allow for political leadership. If there are protests, they need to stay within the law."

He called for a convention of political unionism. "The unionist parties need to give a lead, it's the only way forward," he said.

"Politics got us into this mess, and politics will get us out. A convention could address where we are and where we go next. It could look at the politics of consent and our Britishness."

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