Brexit: Northern Ireland treated ‘different’ says DUP’s Paisley
However, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib fears comments made by the Prime Minister earlier this week suggest he does not understand either document well enough to realise the impact the Brexit agreement which he signed at the end of 2019 has on the landmark treaty, also known as the Belfast Agreement, which was signed in 1998. Mr Habib was speaking at a time of rising tensions after the EU itself triggered Article 16, preventing the import of coronavirus medicines into Northern Ireland, before reversing its decision after vehement protests from London.
He told Express.co.uk this morning: “I was watching the House of Commons two days ago and Ian Paisley asked Boris Johnson to intercede in the Northern Irish Protocol, and he also mentioned the EU.
“And Boris Johnson began by saying that he understood the irritation of the Right Honourable Gentleman and that the EU had momentarily breached the Good Friday Agreement when it invoked Article 16 and tried to put a border on the island of Ireland.”
Mr Habib added: “I watched this with absolute amazement because the Good Friday Agreement makes no reference at all to the prohibition of the border.
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“In fact, it makes frequent references to the fact that there is a border on the island of Ireland.
“The only thing the Good Friday Agreement says is that as soon as possible hereafter, the military presence in Northern Ireland should be scaled back to that appropriate for a peaceful society, and that there should be a demilitarisation of installations.
“That is all it says – it makes no reference to a border on the island of Ireland being prohibited.”
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Turning his attention to Mr Johnson, Mr Habib said: “This says to me that the Prime Minister does not understand either the Good Friday Agreement or in fact the protocol which is his creation.
“Because if he did, he would never have said what he said in the House of Commons.
“The other thing which is absolutely staggering is that the one thing which is absolutely expressly set out in the EU rules breach Good Friday Agreement and must be suspended now, Brexiteer warns Boris is that the people of Northern Ireland want to be a part of the Union of the United Kingdom and that no change shall be made in their status without a vote of the people, in other words, without a referendum.
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“And actually they have had this Northern Ireland Protocol foisted on them, without a referendum, without any say whatsoever.
“So it is not that the EU breached the Belfast Agreement when they invoked Article 16 momentarily a week ago – the Northern Ireland Protocol’s very existence breaches the Belfast Agreement.”
Mr Habib urged Mr Johnson to take a tough stance rather than kowtowing to Brussels.
He explained: “Actually the best thing the Prime Minister could do is to invoke Article 16 himself, given that the Protocol itself is a fundamental breach, and suspend.
“The whole Remain narrative, the whole EU narrative, the whole Republic Ireland narrative is based on this misconception that there cannot be a border on the island of Ireland and that is nothing short of a complete fabrication.
“Boris Johnson is talking off the top of his head, and it wouldn’t be quite so serious if he was a junior minister in Defra or something but actually he is the Prime Minister, in charge of the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster is also calling on Mr Johnson to invoke Article 16, with a petition started by her party on the Government’s official website now having past 90,000 signatures on the way to the 100,000 needed to trigger a Commons debate.
The petition’s description explains: “After just one month, Northern Ireland is suffering real economic and societal difficulties as a consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol operating and creating new barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom and disrupting supply lines of goods to Northern Ireland.
“The Government should use all the powers it has to move urgently to protect UK trade and to ensure all UK goods and produce can freely flow to and from every part of the United Kingdom.”
Inspections on animal-based produce arriving from Great Britain, required by the Protocol, are currently suspended amid fears for the safety of staff.
Police have blamed menacing graffiti on disgruntled individuals and small groups and have made clear there is no evidence of wider paramilitary involvement in threats.
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