Belfast Agreement signatories: ‘NI Protocol imperilling peace process’

Unionist signatories to the Belfast Agreement have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political leaders, calling for the suspension of the post-Brexit NI Protocol.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 9:22 pm
Lord Empey is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

Four members of the Lords, including Sir Reg Empey and David Trimble, are among the eight political figures who have urged the PM, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, US President Joe Biden and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic to row back from “imperilling” the NI peace process.

They represent the surviving members of the Ulster Unionists, Ulster Democratic Party and Progressive Unionist Party who agreed to the historic peace deal on Good Friday, 1998.

The letter states that agreement at that time was based on the belief it “guaranteed that our country’s constitutional status would not change without the consent of its people exercised in a free vote; and that any significant decision affecting the lives and livelihoods of all our people would require the consent of both communities here”.

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It goes on to say that the influential leaders should ensure that the NI Protocol is replaced with new arrangements, negotiated with the people of Northern Ireland and “consistent with the guarantees of the Belfast Agreement.

As well as Lord Empey and Lord Trimble, the letter has been signed by peers John Taylor (Lord Kilclooney) and Ken Maginnis.

The four other signatories are former UUP Stormont minister Dermot Nesbitt, former UUP chairman and chair of the Loyalist Communities Council David Campbell, PUP councillor Billy Hutchinson and former UDP leader Gary McMichael.

The letter says: “The imposition of the Northern Ireland Protocol has breached all of these core guarantees and safeguards of the Agreement. The status of Northern Ireland is not what it was prior to the protocol taking effect therefore it has changed, and changed without the consent of the people of NI.

“Every person in Northern Ireland is affected adversely by the Protocol yet the people of Northern Ireland, and their representatives were excluded from the negotiating process, and their consent for the outcome has not been sought, let alone granted. “Furthermore, although the Protocol repeatedly references the Agreement and the absolute need to preserve it, the provisions in Strands Two and Three that could have been used to reach an inclusive settlement were set aside for the duration of the negotiations.”

The letter also highlights that “respect for the territorial integrity of a country” is a fundamental principle of international law, and adds: “Consequently, you are collectively guilty of exceptional anti-democratic behaviour, of breaking a fundamental principle of international law, and are imperilling the very peace process you claim to want to protect and preserve.

“We expect you to now suspend the NI Protocol forthwith and engage with the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to agree new arrangements which are consistent with the guarantees and provisions of the Belfast Agreement and which command the support of both communities in Northern Ireland.”

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