Misunderstandings about Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement

Based on this short, but accurate summary of the Good Friday Agreement below, several things are very clear immediately.

A. UK has not and doesn’t claim to have the right to keep control or ownership, or Sovereignty or any new term, over Northern Ireland, a corner of a previous British colony in a friendly neighbouring country, unless the people of NI expressly want that.

This then, is clearly not a definition of ongoing Sovereignty, but more of a partnership with Ireland to help heal the wounds of past wrongdoing and maintain the peace that was won by remarkable people from many countries and viewpoints.
Sadly, the Johnsonite rhetoric in Brexit negotiations deliberately attempted to ignore and brush aside these facts in a most despicable fashion, given the sensitivity. Yes it was a strong man act, just like the white coat and fish was supposed to fool fisherman, but it still disregarded many decades of intense pain suffered by others.

B. The people of NI, whichever passport they currently choose to carry, are bound for the long term to and by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Anyone with modest familiarity will understand why that is.

Once again, the Tory rhetoric has sought to steamroll over these facts pretending as though to be discussing Newcastle, or Cornwall. While we know that this is tactics, it is especially tasteless and frankly evil and hopefully we’ve seen the end of that strategy. Britain has chosen to remove human rights from its own British population, that is its prerogative if ordinary British people, once they understand the consequences, still agree to it, but it can’t and won’t apply to the people of Ireland.

UK has claimed to have problems sending school dinners to children in NI, otherwise there’s been little complaint from the business community on either side.
Just for the record, NI is a net exporter of food and if you visit you’ll see they are more often overweight than under. They don’t need school dinners imported from the kind folks in Britain.
It’s not hard to see the driver of that claim. Only a Johnsonite would insult our intelligence with this and a smarter person would avoid food which is controversial at any border. Try entering the US with a sandwich.

The key part of Brexit-GFA negotiation is to stress that the island of Ireland must remain a single entity, not being once again divided by Brexit. That leads to the question of trade between NI and UK which is now effectively an export transaction though the volume is so modest as not to be significant to the UK economy which actually is forced to subsidise NI economy very significantly every year at taxpayers expense.

Keeping NI is expensive. £15 billion p.a. cost to the British taxpayer, just to pretend we are an empire. Can we afford that? The central administration budget for NHS England in 2022/23 has been set at £608 million. This context should be important to most of us in UK watching our NHS crippled by the Tories.
Thats a huge price to pay for what could amount to no more than a little bit of pointless ego enhancement.

The EU has naturally very little trust in the current UK government after years of ignoring negotiations altogether while posting rude articles in the press followed by the sad debacle we watched in horror.
EU insists on minimal standard documentation and regulation of stuff passing from UK into EU via NI. Naturally they will fear situations like valuables smuggled into EU in cars and trucks, Southern Irish using the North as a way to avoid customs checks and so forth. HMRC certainly wouldn’t like it in reverse.
These fairly small issues have been dramatically overblown by the Johnson government for reasons nobody can assign to trade and nobody knows what to expect next in that regard.

Today, LinkedIn has produced the third such inflammatory piece from various UK trolls who continuously post Tory propaganda on the platform and it’s clear they are setting out to start another fight with Europe. This time, I suspect they are desperately scrounging votes off the last few “gammon” who might be impressed with this anti-Europe racism as they will interpret it.

The timing of this propaganda is a signal of what is shortly to come.

SUMMARY

The Good Friday Agreement recognised:
1. The legitimacy of any choice made by the people of Northern Ireland whether to continue as part of the UK, or to become part of a united Ireland.

2. The decision had to be agreed by the whole of Ireland not just NI. Remember, keeping NI is expensive.

3. It was the right of all persons born in Northern Ireland to identify as Irish or British, or both, and to hold both Irish and British citizenship if they so choose.

4. The relevant government (currently UK) will treat all the people of Northern Ireland equally and impartially and fully respect the civil and political rights, and social and cultural traditions of both communities regardless of their choice. At the time, they chose to remain in UK.

So significant was this departure from the previous arrangement that changes had to be made to the Irish Constitution and to British legislation through the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which enshrined the principle of self-determination in legislation and also repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which initially partitioned the island of Ireland.

Ireland was no longer partitioned and became a single island and people again.

A referendum on a united Ireland is to be called by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when it appears likely that a majority of the people would vote in favour of a United Ireland. If the referendum is defeated, at least 7 years must pass before a new referendum can be held. We all know the likelihood that he/she will play nasty games when the time comes, but it won’t do any good.

North-South Institutions were established for the interim period.
For example, a North South Ministerial Council was created where ministers from both parts of Ireland discuss matters of relevance to the whole of the island.

In the context of ending war and persecution, The Good Friday Agreement placed a renewed emphasis on human rights and in particular, the European Convention on Human Rights. Both countries incorporated the Convention into national law and established human rights bodies, currently the Irish Human Rights and Equality Comission.

The terms of the Good Friday Agreement were not affected by the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
Any change to the Good Friday Agreement must be agreed by both the British and Irish governments. Clearly, nobody is going to agree to changes likely to undo the agreement or damage the peace.

Because the Good Friday Agreement binds the British government on several points of law in Northern Ireland, it has de facto become a part of the Constitution of the United Kingdom and can’t be fiddled with without due process.

In a century or so, we can all pray that the old villain Russia will but-out of Ukraine and leave them to get on with things finally.
Perhaps, in order to ensure that Ukrainians don’t attack East Ukrainians in Donbas and surrounds, we may agree that Russia retains an interest for a few years just to give them confidence.

( I should note here, the people of Southern Ireland have never so much as mentioned attacking Unionists, much less do it, unlike those in Kiev who still murder them daily, but you’re not supposed to know that and I’ll pretend it’s wrong if that makes you happy)

So there you are. An old wrong has been almost righted. Years of warfare brought to an end by the sacrifices and efforts of many good men from around the globe as well as Ireland and England. Peace has been growing tangibly stronger in the Northern part of Ireland and the day is almost upon us when they are happy and comfortable on both sides to take the final step.

Are you keen to deliberately mess that up?

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Ed has enjoyed a dual career moving backwards and forwards between leadership roles in software engineering and transforming marketing functions.

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Edward Taaffe

Ed has enjoyed a dual career moving backwards and forwards between leadership roles in software engineering and transforming marketing functions.