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Tony Blair: Good Friday Agreement may have to be reworded for Brexit

By Kevin Doyle

Elements of the Good Friday Agreement may have to be reworded in order to account for Brexit, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

The ex-Labour Party leader told a meeting of the European People’s Party in Wicklow today that the peace deal was based on the assumption that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would both be in the EU.

Any move to rewrite the 1998 text could have significant politicians and may even require a referendum.

“A hard border between the countries would be a disaster and I am sure everyone will and must do all they can to avoid it.

“In addition, the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was formulated on the assumption that both countries were part of the EU.

“This was not only for economic but also for political reasons, to take account particularly of nationalist aspirations.

Some of the language will therefore require amendment because of Brexit,” Mr Blair said.

He suggested this could be achieved with the “minimum of difficulty” if there is goodwill from other European countries.

Mr Blair said that while he has many disagreements with Theresa May’s approach to the Brexit negotiations, there is a “consensus” in Britain that Northern Ireland should be protected from the worst impacts of Brexit.

“Such a consensus will be crucial.

“Brexit uniquely impacts both the Republic and Northern Ireland. There has never been a situation where the UK, including Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, had a different status in respect of Europe. We have either both been out or both been in,” he said.

“The Common Travel Area has meant ease of going back and forth across the border, vital for work and family connection has been in place for almost 100 years. And the absence of customs controls – both countries being in the Single Market and Customs Union – have meant a huge boost to UK-Irish trade.

“Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening. However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support.”

Irish Independent

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