Brexit: Loyalists plan action if Boris Johnson ‘shafts’ Northern Ireland
Loyalist paramilitary organisations have predicted protests and campaigns of civil disobedience if the British government 'dilutes' the status of Northern Ireland within the UK.
Sources within the UVF said it is planning to organise demonstrations and protests using proxies if the Boris Johnson's government attempts a Brexit compromise by aligning Northern Ireland and the Republic in any customs arrangement.
The UDA in west Belfast is adopting a “wait and see” approach until the specifics of any Brexit deal are announced, according to the Sunday Times.
However, sources close to the group’s thinking say it's making contingency plans.
Negotiations are currently ongoing between London, Dublin and Brussels to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31.
A new deal may involve goods entering Northern Ireland facing customs and regulatory checks on the Irish Sea, but being able to move freely across the border. If agreed, this plan would let UK and EU officials collect tariffs at ports in Northern Ireland on behalf of Brussels. The deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds said on Sunday the proposed new solution cannot work because Northern Ireland must remain fully in the customs union.
The plan would anger many loyalists who would view the arrangement as a form of economic alignment with Dublin and a possible precursor to a united Ireland.
A UDA figure said on Saturday: "Boris Johnson has shafted the loyalist people of Northern Ireland. The DUP are not the only people Boris should be consulting."
Prominent loyalist Robert Girvan said: "I can’t see loyalism of any strand just walking into a situation where there is any type of economic union with the Irish Republic. I was talking to someone who said we’ll see how hard the border is if bombs start going off in Limerick."
He said groups such as the UVF had been formed to protect Northern Ireland's place in the union. "If that place is threatened, the organisations will step up to the mark," he said.
Loyalists suspected the Irish government viewed Brexit as an opportunity to create a united Ireland through a back door, he said.
He accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of showing contempt and disregard to the community and said he believed discussions were taking place between the UVF and the UDA on what course of action the groups should take.
"This is not empty rhetoric. When a loyalist says ‘over my dead body’, they mean it. The dog is in the trap and we are waiting to see when the hare will be released," he said.
The PSNI and Gardai have said they believe there is a significant risk of loyalist paramilitary groups becoming involved in widespread civil disorder and protests over Brexit.
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said: "If Northern Ireland is aligned in any way to the Republic, I think the flag protests of 2013 will look like a day at the beach. I would advocate peaceful protest and civil disobedience as no one wants to see violence, but I think when you have mass numbers of people on the streets, violence will occur.
"I cannot speak on behalf of the UVF but my view is that its position on this matter is clear," he said.
"The test on what’s proposed will be, does it affect or change Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom? If there is a proposal to align Northern Ireland with the south, or run a border down the Irish Sea, we would have no option but to take to the streets.
"Where that goes afterwards is anyone’s guess. Loyalists will not roll over meekly."