Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson's Brexit deal is threat to peace in Northern Ireland says former PM Tony Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair signs the Good Friday Agreement with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Prime Minister Tony Blair signs the Good Friday Agreement with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Boris Johnson's Brexit proposals put peace in Northern Ireland in peril, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Writing for the Guardian Mr Blair said that the Good Friday Agreement would never have been signed without a commitment to an open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. 

Mr Blair was one of the key figures in the negotiations that led to the 1998 agreement, alongside then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and US President Bill Clinton.

He wrote that Mr Johnson's proposals "undermines the Good Friday Agreement in fundamental respects".

The former Labour leader said that Europe played role in the signing of the Agreement in two ways.

He pointed to greater cooperation between Ireland and the UK after both joined the European community in 1973 and said that "the shared future in Europe meant that the border diminished in significance".

"The open border between north and south was key. Had that been in doubt, there would never have been a peace agreement. Simple as that," Mr Blair wrote

"All this is to show that the issue of the Irish border is not some invented ruse by 'Remoaners' to derail 'the will of the people' – it has deep historical roots and was always bound to be critical to the Brexit debate."

The former PM wrote that Mr Johnson's current plan would result in border checks and was a breach of the government's commitment to unionists to treat Northern Ireland the same as the rest of the UK

Mr Blair wrote that this "would undermine the peace so carefully constructed and kept despite all the challenges for more than two decades, with any border-related infrastructure a potential target for violent elements and with a weakening of the 'one island' culture at the heart of nationalist aspirations."

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern shake hands after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern shake hands after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998

He also said that the plan was a "bad deal for Britain" and called for another referendum on Brexit.

Mr Johnson's current plans would see Northern Ireland apply EU rules on goods, but stay in a customs territory with the UK.

This would create a regulatory barrier for goods crossing the Irish Sea and create a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but Mr Johnson has insisted there would be no need for checks or infrastructure at the frontier.

It would also give Stormont the power to decide whether Northern Ireland remains aligned with EU regulations post-Brexit. But the 17-page document does not detail what happens if devolution is suspended.

The DUP are the only major party in Northern Ireland supporting the proposals, with it being rejected by Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance, the Green Party, UUP and the TUV.

It has also been rejected by the majority of Northern Ireland's business organisations.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton (Brian Lawless/PA)
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton (Brian Lawless/PA)

On Sunday Mr Johnson insisted the UK will leave the EU on October 31, but said it remains to be seen whether Europe will “cheerily wave us off” with a deal.

Describing his blueprint for an agreement as a “practical compromise that gives ground where necessary”, Mr Johnson said it represents the UK “jumping to the island in the middle of the river”.

“MPs from every wing of my own Conservative Party, from Northern Ireland’s DUP, even from Jeremy Corbyn’s own ranks, have said that our proposed deal looks like one they can get behind,” Mr Johnson said.

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