David Davis, Britain’s former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and a leading hardline supporter of Brexit, speaking to the German magazine, Der Spiegel:
DER SPIEGEL: Why is the prime minister’s deal so bad in your point of view?
Davis: Well, firstly, because it basically sets out to break up the United Kingdom. It would separate the province of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, something we as the Conservative and Unionist Party have always set our face against.
DER SPIEGEL: But Northern Ireland has already been constitutionally different from the rest of the United Kingdom since the peace agreement of 1998, anyway.
Davis: Only where it chooses to be, not by imposition. The simple truth is that Good Friday Agreement requires the approval of both communities, Protestant and Catholic, for any constitutional change. And that hasn’t been sought in this context.
Despite the claim by Davis, the draft withdrawal deal between the European Union and Britain does not set out to “break up the United Kingdom”. Its purpose is to facilitate an orderly withdrawal by the UK from the EU while maintaining the delicately balanced peace in the British-ruled north-east of Ireland. This is in line with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, a set of regional and international accords which officials in Brussels and Dublin seem more intent on respecting – and protecting – than their counterparts in London. Including, it seems, a substantial number of elected legislators in the House of Commons.
Secondly, the Conservative Party MP implicitly accepts that “Northern Ireland has been constitutionally different” from Britain for decades. In fact, the Good Friday Agreement and its addenda simply underline that difference. Britain’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland is just that. A dysfunctional, problematic and troublesome legacy of British colonialism among the Irish, and one which has required bespoke management by London – and latterly, Dublin – since the first two decades of the 20th century. And that has not changed in the first two decades of the 21st century.
Finally, Davis acknowledges that any substantial change to the position of the Six Counties vis-à-vis the United Kingdom, Ireland or the European Union must require the approval of both communities in the disputed region, Irish nationalist and British unionist. And that any contemplated change is not a matter for the authorities in the UK alone to decide. Given that most voters in north-east of Ireland have expressed support for continued and unbroken membership of the EU in the Brexit referendum of 2016, it follows that London has no right to impose its anti-European wishes upon them. Which is what an English-driven Brexit represents. As the Tory politician and former cabinet minister admits, the Six Counties can be different if it “chooses” to be. And arguably, with a pro-EU majority, it has done so.
Part of the problem here is that the British Constitution has no real roadmap for dealing with a Referendum.
So does it matter from the legal perspective that Scotland and NI, expressed a different majority vote than England and Wales? Nobody knows. That bizarre unwritten Constitution has nothing to say about it.
For that matter does it matter that different Brexiteers may have been “in it” for different reasons, or even voted leave as a “protest vote” thinking it would never go through….again there’s no procedure in Britain for when a second vote could be called.
Another problem here seems to be “Parliamentary sovereignty” which if I understand it correctly means that there is no Constitution provision in the UK that requires treaties to be honored, nor any real standards beyond the Prime Miister’s say-so in terms of entering them.
Basically treaties can be made whenever the Prime Minister wants, and broken whenever parliament decides to do so. The whole “perfidius albion” thing might not lie in the English character at all. I’d shudder to think how almost any nation might behave under that set of rules.
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By referendum the Republic voted to amend it’s constitution claim on NI as part of the GFA.
But as events have shown the GFA and the democratic wish of the people of the North of Ireland to stay in the EU is not worth the paper it was written on.
Moreover, just listened to various comments from Westminster ministers post tonight’s crushing government defeat, and British belligerence is even greater now with statements that the EU must come back with a better deal, and well as removing the Irish backstop.
Indeed, one UK minister was actually declared that Germany was moving into recession with the implicit threat that they either gave Britain another deal…..or else.
Not much hope for little Ireland then with self harm attitides like this, and it certainly reinforces how another UK minister only a few weeks ago was minded to opine that in relation to negotiations with Ireland, Dublin should be reminded of what food shortages mean.
The EU concedes to this belligerent hostile wrecking ball at its peril.
Economic war commences and we will all be the poorer for it unless the EU stand firm.
Indeed. The belligerence towards Ireland from the Brexiteers will grow.
But the good news is that Barnier is commited to continuance of the GFA and therefore committed to the backstop.
ATM he has the leaders of the EU27, the EC and the European Parliament behind him.
But none of that will help the UK, the RoI and the North if May continues on her current crash-out trajectory.
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