Northern Ireland Peace Deal Architect: Biden Risks ‘Causing Civil Unrest’ by Interfering in UK-EU Politics

Ireland
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One of the chief architects of the Good Friday peace deal between British unionists and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland has written to U.S. President Biden warning him that his interference in the Province’s internal politics risks “causing civil unrest”.

Biden, who plays up his Irish ancestry despite the fact his surname appears to trace its roots to English settlers in North America, has repeatedly intervened in the politics of Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster, on the side of the European Union, which has sought — successfully — to retain much of its power over the British province despite Brexit.

Brussels continues to apply much of its Single Market regulatory regime, enforced by its judges, over Ulster, and British prime minister Boris Johnson even agreed to create an internal border between the territory and mainland Great Britain so that checks would not have to be introduced at its border with the EU-controlled Republic of Ireland.

However, the bloc has been applying customs checks with a disproportionate rigour at this Irish Sea border — it is alleged that 2.5 times more checks are being carried out there than at Rotterdam, the European mega-port where goods flood into the continent from all over the world — in what appears to be an almost deliberately punitive fashion, even for goods not intended to carry on EU Ireland, damaging trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and causing a number of shortages.

The British government has suggested, if weakly, that the system must be reformed, given the unrest the situation is causing among Ulsters’s unionist majority, but Biden has been entirely partisan for the EU, suggesting that it is entirely incumbent on the British to uphold the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement via submitting to all of Brussels’ demands — with no indication that Brussels might have some role to play in resolving matters by, say, simply agreeing to a mutual recognition of regulatory standards.

This has earned the 78-year-old American, already reeling from the damage to his international reputation caused by his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sharp rebuke from the Lord Trimble, a key player in the creation of the Belfast Agreement.

“As a former First Minister of Northern Ireland and the co-negotiator of the Belfast Agreement along with the late John Hume, I wish to express my concern about the way in which the Agreement is being undermined by the Northern Ireland Protocol, and in particular the role which your administration has played in contributing to the damage being caused to the Agreement through your support for the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Trimble wrote in a letter to the President, with the Protocol he references being the section of the Brexit deal covering Ulster.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol has not only subverted the main safeguards within the Belfast Agreement causing civil unrest and political uncertainty, it is also damaging the Northern Ireland economy disrupting supply chains, inflating prices and diverting trade from our main market in Great Britain,” Trimble explained.

He went on to point out how, in particular, the Protocol has undermined the key principle of “consent” in the Belfast Agreement — that is, that major decisions Northern Ireland’s governance should not be taken without both the unionist and nationalist communities’ agreement:

The NIP [Northern Ireland Protocol] totally destroyed this consent principle to the detriment of the unionist community. First of all it represents a massive change on the constitutional status of NI [Northern Ireland]. No longer will laws applicable in NI relating to Agricultural practices, product standards, environmental codes, labour regulations be made by the UK parliament or even the NI Assembly. They will be made by the EU and imposed by the European Court of Justice. This monumental constitutional change has been imposed on the people of NI without seeking their consent and against the manifest opposition of every unionist party and politician in NI. The result has been political unrest and violence and threats of further violence on our streets because the political promises of the Belfast Agreement have been flippantly dismissed through the NIP.

“You are on record as saying that the primary aim of your administration is to defend and support the Belfast Agreement when in fact defending the NIP does the exact opposite and damages community relations within NI undermining the good work which John Hume and myself achieved at great personal sacrifice,” Trimble admonished.

The former Ulster Unionist Party leader suggested that, rather than backing the EU and its Protocol to the hilt, Biden should throw his weight behind the alternative of Mutual Enforcement, which would entail “both the EU and the UK Mutually Enforcing each others rules regulations and taxes for companies exporting into each others territory” — and not the EU over-regulating trade between different parts of the United Kingdom in an overbearing and damaging manner.

“I know you have a genuine interest in Ireland and its future but would appeal to you to consider the way in which the NIP protocol has undermined the peace process,” Trimble urged.

“Accept that it is not good economically or politically for either NI or the Irish Republic,” he added.

Ulster unionists may have a long time to wait before Boris Johnson’s government does anything about the erosion of British sovereignty in the part of the United Kingdom, however.

Lord Frost, the government’s Minister of State for EU Relations and former Brexit negotiator, in recent days gave what was supposed to be a tough speech urging the EU to agree to reform the Northern Ireland deal — something they have hitherto been totally unwilling to do — but he was clear that the changes the Johnson administration is seeking “go with the grain of the Protocol. They do not remove it. They retain controls in the Irish Sea for certain purposes. They envisage that EU laws can still be valid, within certain circumstances, in Northern Ireland.”

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