Good Friday Agreement will apply in all Brexit scenarios says Barnier
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the Good Friday Agreement will continue to apply in all Brexit scenarios, with the EU prepared to offer additional financial support to Ireland to meet any challenges.
The senior official made the comments as he directly addressed Northern Ireland’s three MEPs in the European Parliament chamber in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
“In a no deal, in all scenarios, the Good Friday Agreement will continue to apply. The United Kingdom will remain a co-guarantor of that agreement,” he said.
“And it is expected to uphold it in spirit and in letter. The Commission is ready to make additional resources available to Ireland, technical and financial, to address any additional challenges.”
Amid the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, Northern Ireland’s three MEPs accepted they were likely making their last ever speeches in the European Parliament on Wednesday morning.
Both unionist MEPs used their time to outline their opposition to the creation of any border down the Irish Sea, while Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson called for a referendum on Irish unity in the event of a no-deal.
UUP veteran Jim Nicholson told MEPs and the EU’s chief negotiator: “I said in the very beginning that the people that I represent would never accept a border in the Irish Sea and that still stands - Mr Barnier I hope you’re listening to that.
“The backstop would unravel the fabric of the Belfast Agreement, an international agreement, which in this place champion, but willfully forget the principle of consent within that agreement.”
Mr Nicholson added: “There’s a need to listen to everyone in NI, not just those who shout the loudest. There’s a very quiet majority of people in Northern Ireland who just want a good way forward for NI, for the United Kingdom and indeed for the European Union.”
DUP MEP Diane Dodds reiterated her parties continued opposition to the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May, telling the EU Parliament: “This deal will endanger the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK. It is not a price that we as unionists are willing to pay.”
Addressing the discussion around the Good Friday Agreement in the chamber, Ms Dodds added: “It is only with the consent of the people of NI, that there will be any moves towards a change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.”
In her contribution, Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson argued that the Good Friday Agreement contains the potential solution in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Addressing the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, she said: “If we remove the border we remove the problem. So plan for Irish unity, based on the principle of consent.”
Michel Barnier said the 1998 agreement has remained at the centre of the EU’s negotiating position.
“For two years we have been patiently looking for specific and operational solutions to the most serious problems created by Brexit, and of course these can be found in Ireland.”
He said any threat to the Good Friday Agreement risked peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
“We have been trying to preserve that. That’s what we’re doing, nothing else.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital