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Loyalists ‘shafted’ by British government: Ex-Downing Street chief Jonathan Powell


Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair

Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair

Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair

The former Downing Street Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell has said loyalists and unionists have been “shafted” by the British government.

Powell, who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement alongside Tony Blair, said an Irish Sea border was inevitable, despite the promises of successive prime ministers.

“The British government has pushed ahead, doing something that Theresa May said would never happen, [that] no British Prime Minister would do, putting a border in the Irish Sea,” he told UTV’s View from Stormont programme on Monday night.

“So I think that was always going to be the problem with Brexit.

“We’re now trying to live with the consequences of an insoluble conundrum that we knew was going to happen at the beginning,” continued Mr Powell.

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“John Major and Tony Blair pointed it out. If you leave the single market and you leave the customs union, you’ve got to put a border somewhere.”

He added: “When Billy [Hutchinson] talks about consent, of course Brexit didn’t have consent in Northern Ireland. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland were opposed to it [62.7% voted to remain in the EU].”

The ex-Labour advisor was referring to the statement released by PUP leader Billy Hutchinson on Monday, in which he said unionists could no longer back the Good Friday Agreement.

The former loyalist prisoner, who was part of the loyalist negotiating team working on the agreement, claimed that the principle of consent contained within the Northern Ireland Act had been shown to be a “deceptive snare” due to the protocol, and that it was aimed at protecting “merely the symbolism rather than substance of the union”.

The protocol was agreed by the EU and UK to avoid a border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

It sees Northern Ireland continue to follow EU rules and thus it creates a de facto sea border with GB which has also affected trade arrangements between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, to the anger of many unionists.

DUP leader set a November deadline for issues to be resolved or he would pull his party out of the Executive. He has said progress has been made on the matter and it would be “churlish” to collapse power sharing at this stage.

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