Current Affairs Politics

Theresa May To Achieve Brexit By Rewriting The Good Friday Agreement?

Last week ended with press reports that Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was discussing plans with her Cabinet colleagues to propose a new bilateral treaty between the UK and Ireland to negate the need for the Irish-focused backstop clause in the draft withdrawal agreement between London and Brussels. A suggestion which the government in Dublin immediately dismissed as untenable, insisting that any protocols to prevent the reestablishment of a hard border around the Six Counties must be part of a broader deal between Britain and the European Union. This definitive response scuppered a rather obvious attempt by the British premier to drive a wedge into the largely united front presented by the EU and its member states on the question of maintaining the near-invisible status of the UK frontier in Ireland through regulatory alignment across the island.

Unfortunately this week is beginning with similar rumours from London, with claims that May and her faction-riven government is contemplating the possibility of amending the Good Friday Agreement of 1998; the combined regional and international peace accords which effectively ended forty years of conflict in the north-east of Ireland. In particular, it seems that the Conservative Party leader intends to argue for a new annex to the treaty between Dublin and London, whereby the latter will guarantee an open customs border around the Six Counties, with no inspections or checks of any kind on the partition boundary between north and south. According to the establishment newspaper, The Daily Telegraph:

“One of the proposals under consideration is rewriting the 1998 accord to assure Ireland that the UK is committed to no hard border on the island after the UK leaves the European Union in March.

Ministers believe that adding some text into the agreement would serve as a way of avoiding having to commit the UK to the backstop.”

However, this rather sketchy suggestion most certainly does not eliminate the possibility of customs services being required on or near the border at some future date, whatever the best intentions of both parties, unless the Six Counties remains in some form of common rule-taking with the rest of Europe, with exterior checks at the region’s airports and seaports. Something UK ministers and officials must be aware of.

Even worse, playing games with what the United Nations’ aptly describes as the “Northern Ireland Peace Treaty” in a dubious attempt to satisfy or mollify the Brexit fanaticism of the Conservative Party backbenches and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party, many of whom actively opposed the conflict-ending 1998 agreement in the first place, is utterly reckless. With political and communal tensions ratcheting up in the British legacy colony on this side of the Irish Sea, the last thing we need is historically illiterate or downright malevolent politicians in Downing Street and Westminster stirring up the ashes of a barely cooled fire in pursuit of an ideological impossibility.

20 comments on “Theresa May To Achieve Brexit By Rewriting The Good Friday Agreement?

  1. One thing I don’t get. I remember a time, when the British………or so it seemed with the ones I meet or could observe from their media…….wanted nothing in the world more than to see the end of The Troubles.

    What’s the deal? Is this a case of extreme historical amnesia?

    Or was there a certain amount of poor-mouth and dishonesty directed at Americans? Maybe where they were willing to admit certain views to Americans? (I’ve actually been directly mocked by British people for expressing some admiration for Nehru, who implied such views were just the result of America’s “horrible” education system.)

    Or was I just not talking to a very representative sample of British people? (Also possible. Since every single Brit I’ve ever talked politics with has supported the Labour Party, none of have been Brexiteers, and nearly half have been British Republicans….if the polls are to be believed that’s a skewed sample.)

    • Those British who care about it have rewritten the history of the Troubles over the last decade, creating an even narrower interpretation of the war than existed during the conflict itself.

      Having failed to defeat the IRA between 1969-2005, having been forced to negotiate with the IRA through a military stalemate in the 1990s, the British press and political class have now moved on to reinterpreting the end of the war as some sort of victory over the IRA. Britain is incapable of believing in anything but “victory” in any conflict it was engaged in. The historical record must reflect that, even if the historical record must be twisted to do so. The rest of the country simply doesn’t care and so leaves the history-shaping to the apologists for UK operations and rule in Ireland.

      From today’s Sun , one of the UK’s most popular newspapers:

      Over 300,000 troops bravely served during the Troubles on Operation Banner – the longest campaign in British military history.

      Bloody fighting claimed 1,441 servicemen and left thousands more injured between 1969 and the summer of 2007.

      But in a shock move officials have told The Sun the Armed Forces and MoD have “no plans to commemorate” the historic 50th anniversary of the start of operations on August 14th.

      Instead the Royal British Legion is hosting a service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, as the lone event marking the moving military anniversary.

      … critics blamed the decision on political correctness and a cowardly attempt not to inflame tensions while Brexit negotiations rage.

      Former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, said: “This is a deliberate snub intended to appease Irish Republicans.

      “1,441 members of the forces and 319 RUC police officers were killed during the Troubles, during which more than 300,000 troops deployed to the province.

      “These men and women and their police colleagues daily risked life and limb to protect innocent civilians from terrorist killing and subjugation.

      “Their sacrifice played the greatest role in taking Northern Ireland from a state of insurrection to the safe and prosperous place it is today.

      “Veterans of Op Banner will not understand why the government is turning its back on them alone and this decision will be seen as a lack of appreciation for their service by members of the Armed Forces today.”

      Belfast born Colonel Tim Collins, who served multiple tours in Northern Ireland, blamed crass “political pressure” for the snub.

      He said: “It’s a political decision and the MoD won’t move without politics. There has been a shady deal done with Sinn Fein and the IRA.

      “They will have nixed it and said such a thing would be seen as provocation, the Irish government would say the same.

      “The Government has got itself into a state on this.”

      And SAS veteran Andy McNab, another Troubles veteran, said: “This anniversary should be held in the same esteem as others we regularly commemorate – not airbrushed from history.

      “No one wants to be triumphalist here – but the sacrifice of Operation Banner and the peace they helped secure – must be commemorated.”

      And former Army officer turned MP Richard Drax, who served three tours in Northern Ireland, raged: “This whole Op banner debacle and the way soldiers are being chased decades after this ghastly conflict is appalling.

      “There has always been a level of embarrassment about Northern Ireland and I do think sadly all too often for political reasons, soldiers have been sacrificed on the altar of compromise.

      “I met many brave soldiers, policemen and woman and civilians, all of whom did their level best to bring peace back to that part of the United Kingdom and I think it should be recognised.”

      • Then how do they manage to explain to school children why so many countries that were once a part of their Empire, are now independent nations? What do they teach about the many revolutions where their colonies became independent? Or the Norman Conquest?

        But OK, if the British are remotely as you describe, them then you are vastly overplaying the similarity between Brexiteers and Trumpies.

        I’m afraid this article is the best description I’ve seen of 1/2-2/3 of hard core Trumpies and many of his “fair weather” followers as well.

        https://newrepublic.com/article/151603/nihilist-nation-empty-core-trump-mystique

        Now I can hardly rule out the possibility that this sickness or something similar may be present in Britain (Or Ireland. Or any number of other countries.) But Trump support is not all about “racists and white supremacists” (although that subset is very real too), nor does economic distress go very far at all.

        But if in fact this sickness has become a global thing and account for a significant chunk of the Brexiteers, then they were at minimum have to be a very, very different subset from people who really want another British Empire, or alternately think an isolated “little England” would be wonderful. Or who are simply hoping the the EU dues would go to the NHS.

        So I suppose that some Brexiteers might really want to get that Empire back (fat chance!!!) and some may in fact, be a lot like Trumpies. But if that’s true they would have to be different groups of people who supported Brexit with different motives.

        See what I’m getting at?

      • “the British press and political class have now moved on to reinterpreting the end of the war as some sort of victory over the IRA”

        It’s not just a Brit attitude.

        It is firmly (and I mean firmly as in set in concrete) engrained into the NI Unionist worldview

      • civic-critic

        The British militarised the conflict in order to freeze it in a form that was controllable by them, more controllable and predictable than the unseen paths that a more fluid politics may have led to, such as socialism or a rapprochement between the communities. Just as the Ukrainian far right militias were sent in to Mariupol to open up on the civilian population in order to provoke a military conflict, so the British walked into Ballymurphy and the Bogside and opened up on the civilian population, with predictable results.

        The reason the British opted for a frozen military conflict was because the island of Ireland is more important for them in geostrategic terms than anything else; no talk about customs and chlorinated chickens, economy or anything else expresses what is in play over Brexit. Britain secured Ireland for NATO during the Cold War and that was paramount.

        When the US servicemen were withrawn from their bases in N. Ireland during the ’70s because of the optics back home, Britain became the sole hegemon and guarantor for NATO in these islands. For that reason the ‘Economic War’, based on the idea that Britain could be economically damaged by blowing N. Ireland to bits commercially, was idiotic. It utterly underestimated what it was dealing with, did not understand the geostrategic reality underpinning the British presence, was economically small relative to the size of the British economy and left out entirely the subvention in the matter of billions that the US would and probably was providing to the British as the now sole hegemon responsible for this place after the US pullout.

        The Economic War also had the effect of making the IRA look like they were directly attacking the civilian population, which in many respects they were – a British aim, curiously enough.

        It is because the geostrategic is paramount that the frozen conflict was unfrozen immediately after the end of the Cold War and negotiations begun for resolution – a new geostrategic reality had occurred and the old set-up was no longer needed. And the Americans appeared more overtly again, dressed in the clothes of the Honest Broker. In fact they were there all the time I suspect, in the background.

        These facts dictated the British getting around a table with the IRA more than any other facts. Just as the end of the Cold War transformed South Africa and many other places, so too did it have a major effect on Ireland.

        That is why what is occurring now in terms of negotiations is geostrategic in nature, though cloaked in every euphemism and moral phrase imaginable because the geostrategic is the one thing about Ireland that must never be admitted or discussed publically. It is in fact defining and has been defining on this island for 4 centuries. After the obligatory couple of decades of quiescence we now have the obligatory reawakening of the geostrategic in terms of the destabilisation of our island by the British. It recurs, endlessly and will always recur because it is far more fundamental than any other category. And will continue to be so as long as the UK and England remain unchanged.

      • civic-critic

        Why didn’t you publish my comment?

  2. Another way of looking at it: these ‘revolutionaries’ are giving the anti brexit camp another excuse to tear up brexit I.e “bombs are going off in the north because of brexit”. The strategic sense is beyond me why irish militants would want to halt the Brits tearing each other apart over brexit?……unless nefarious agencies are pulling the strings of course.

    • Pat murphy

      Who stands to win by these actions?. Irish republicans are certainly not stupid so figure it out. I think “nefarious agencies “would be a perfect analyst.

  3. They got the peace and twenty years on think they can do what they want.

    The GFA is torn up, direct rule is back, with the father of Boris Johnson opining whether it matters if the Irish shoot each other.

    Similar type comment from the Tory minister Patel who thought that discussions with Dublin could be helped if the UK reminded them of food shortages.

    And in Scotland they’re trying their hardest to roll back the power of the Scottish Parliament as their beloved Great Britain comes apart.

    England will always be a bad neighbour. They take. You give. Austerity for the many and riches for the few.

    But their power is on the wane. Ireland will become united and Scotland will go independent.

    Europe must therefore stand strong against this menace. Let England tear itself a part. Let them isolate themselves.

    England’s difficulty is Ireland and Scotland’s opportunity, and as they rip themselves apart, we have the opportunity to be part of better.

  4. They reacon the Queen of England might get pulled in to all of this. In order to overturn Speaker Bercows acceptance of the Grieve amendment. A Real constitutional crisis could be only weeks away.

    • Alan Gordon

      I don’t understand the tory outrage over the Grieve amendment and fury towards the speaker. It is on record, Parlimentary Records, scrutiny and approval Withdrawal Aggreement, sections 17, 18, 19 and 42. The Sec. State for exiting the EU states that the motion will be amendable and that it will be up to the speaker of the house to decide which amendments to bring forward.

  5. Just had a good laugh at today’s announcement whereby PM May has decreed that she is cancelling the £65.00. charge to be paid by all EU ( Irish ) to apply to remain in the U.K.

    With the application process gong live today I wonder how many EU ( Irish ) in Derry, Belfast and beyond will today be filling their forms in.

    And I wonder how HMG are going to deal with those who don’t fill in the forms. Cut off their medical care, bank accounts, right to drive, have a job as they did with the Windrush example. But where will they repatriate them to, and what a laugh when HMG go round trying to to understand em up.

    Me thinks the 3.5 million EU citizens in the U.K. ( including Norther Ireland ) might just tell em to stick it.

    Fun and games ahead.

    • The 3.7 million EU citizens in the U.K excludes Irish citizens in Great Britain and NI, in fact.
      EU citizens – by definition – have countries they can be deported to. As for NI, the GFA grants Irish citizens born in NI the same rights as British citizens born in NI. The interesting thing will come if there is a “backstop” effectively keeping NI in the EU. Border checks between Great Britain and Ireland will mean the CTA could be comparatively easily abolished and if the EU starts making alterations to regulations which will affect NI the immediate British response will probably be “You want it? You pay for it.” followed by British refusal to pay for any of the EU’s requirements and eventual withdrawal.

      • Pat murphy

        You seem to believe that “Britain” holds all the triumph cards here. They don’t hold any. They will be begging the EU to trade with them. They can stiff upper lip all they want but in the modern world they are an irrelevance. The empire is no more. Directly or indirectly the brits will pay dearly for their folly. But sure won’t norn iron still be English no sorry British. Mwaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaahaa.

        • No need for triumph cards – or trump cards – here. The attitude of many Brexiters could be summed up as “Ourselves alone”. Given the opportunity to slough off a bunch of foreigners, they’ll take it..

          • Pat murphy

            Sarcasm is the lowest form of Witt. So sorry if I inadvertently entered the wrong word but I must blame the predictive text.

            • Surrealism, not sarcasm. Inadvertent surrealism, too, which is much the best!
              Prediction in reality is no more accurate than predictive texts.

              • Pat murphy

                In your opinion. By the way is ashole spelt with one s or two?.

  6. Well this mad story didn’t take long to bite the dust, with Mrs May categorically declaring yesterday that there will be no alteration/renegotiation of the G.F.A.. In relation to the bomb in Derry I read a crazy editorial in the Guardian today, something along the lines of “you see, this is what you get when you vote for Brexit.” Their knowledge of northern Irish affairs is obviously rather flimsy as dissidents have been engaged in this sort of activity for the last 20 years, long before an E.U. referendum was ever mooted and in that period have killed a record number of civilians in one episode at Omagh, as well as murdering two Catholic policemen, maiming another, and killing two Protestant prison officers. The dissidents are, of course, vehemently opposed to both the G.F.A. and the E.U..
    The posh boys and girls who write for the Guardian have been salivating at their keyboards for some time now over the prospect of a northern Irish post-Brexit “bloodbath,” something I and many others find deeply offensive and patronizing, recalling as it does past British attitudes to the volatile Irish, or Northern Irish in this case, and bearing in mind that the vast majority of our population didn’t lift a finger to harm anyone during the long period of our “troubles.” Perhaps as they and the majority of Londoners voted remain they could arrange this much hoped-for event with the 1.5 million of their fellow citizens who voted leave.
    Some difference of opinion seems to be developing between the government of the R.O.I. and the European Commission on the question of a “hard border” in the wake of a no deal Brexit. A few weeks ago I watched Leo Varadkar assert that his government would not establish such a border even in the event of a no deal, but since then various eurocrats have stated the exact opposite. Looks like the Irish Pro-Consul has been reined in and told who’s boss in no uncertain terms. And all this to deal with north-south trade worth 1.63 billion euros, out of a total of 79 billion sales and exports and South-North trade worth 1.65 billion out of a total of 122.5 billion. I have no doubt that a bi-lateral agreement could be reached to facilitate this relatively small amount of cross-border trade, but the E.U. won’t allow that as the border is too valuable as a bargaining chip.

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