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No coincidence those calling time on Belfast Agreement are 'ardent' Brexiteers, says Labour Peer Adonis

A Labour peer has said he has not heard "more irresponsible words from a former cabinet minister" after a prominent Brexiteer said the Good Friday Agreement may have served its purpose.

Lord Adonis criticised the claims from former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson as well as other Eurosceptics in recent days.

During the course of the debate Tory former minister Lord Robathan also suggested the agreement may have to "move on" and be amended.

Former transport secretary Lord Adonis, an ardent Remainer, told peers: "I think the most disturbing and alarming thing that's happened in respect of the Brexit process in the recent past is the collapse of the power sharing talks in Northern Ireland last week.

"And the response of both the DUP leadership and, I have to say, some prominent members of the Conservative Party, including a former Conservative Northern Ireland secretary, since that collapse, who have said that they believe that the time may have come to end the Northern Ireland agreement.

"Including a tweet, a tweet from the said former Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, saying he thought the Northern Ireland agreement had now served its purpose.

"Can I say, I do not think I have heard more irresponsible words from a former cabinet minister in the recent past than those."

Lord Adonis said it was not a coincidence that those calling for an end to the Belfast Agreement were predominately "ardent Brexiteers".

He also singled out Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who he accused of "playing with fire".

Lord Adonis added: "Playing fast and loose with the peace of Northern Ireland in the cause of Brexit is I think is utterly reprehensible."

Earlier, Lord Adonis had asked Brexiteer Lord Robathan if he agreed with those Conservatives who had said the Good Friday Agreement should end.

Lord Robathan said: "No I don't. I think the Good Friday Agreement has achieved a great deal.

"However, as with all agreements, sometimes things have to move on. Not be changed necessarily, move on.

"The reason that these people said there should be an end to the Northern Ireland agreement was because of the failure to get together a government in a devolved government. Nothing to do with Brexit."

When challenged again by Lord Adonis, Lord Robathan said the agreement had taken a great deal of time to put together.

"But as life changes, so sometimes we need to adjust, amend things, and I think that's what noble Lords are trying to do today," he said.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said it "shocks me that people have such short memories", having been involved in many of the most serious trials resulting from the Troubles.

The QC and Labour peer added: "If we really are concerned about that achievement, which was a great achievement in getting that peace treaty through, getting that peace process through, if we are really concerned about putting that at risk, we would not be so cavalier with the idea of what is provided by having a customs union, and why that is so important and that sustaining it into the future must be one of the things that we're seeking to do."

Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain said the UK and Ireland had joined the European Union at the same time.

"What we're doing is now putting ourselves, for the first time since the common travel area and all the rest of it, and historic situations, for the first time outside in a place very different to them," he said.

"That is why the problem's arisen."

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