Loyalist paramilitary groups have told the British and Irish governments they’re withdrawing support for the Good Friday agreement in protest at Northern Ireland’s Irish Sea trade border with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Loyalist Communities Council, an umbrella group that represents the views of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, wrote a letter to Boris Johnson and Ireland’s taoiseach, Micheál Martin, warning of “permanent destruction” of the 1998 peace agreement without changes to post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.
The letter said unionist opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland a part of the EU’s single market for goods, should remain peaceful and democratic.
However, the decision to remove support for a peace deal that underpins power-sharing in Northern Ireland seems designed to sound alarm bells in Dublin, London and Brussels.
The warning came hours after the British government was accused of breaking international laws for a second time by the European commission after ministers said the United Kingdom would unilaterally act to give Northern Ireland businesses time to adjust to post Brexit rules.
Loyalist paramilitary groups supported the Good Friday agreement and have no wish to reignite the Troubles. But parts of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando endure as a dark presence in Northern Ireland and some are linked to criminality.
David Campbell, the chairman of the LCC, wrote in a letter that they were worried about the disruption to trade and commerce between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that’s happening, but that their core objection is much more fundamental.
He said the protocol had breached safeguards in the Good Friday agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, to preserve the standing of both communities, and that loyalist hostility was on par with 1985 when unionists and loyalists staged mass gatherings against the Anglo Irish Agreement.
He said don’t disparage the strength of feeling on this issue right across the unionist family, and that therefore, he’s been told to advise that the loyalist groupings were herewith removing their support for the Belfast Agreement until their rights under the agreement were restored and the protocol is revised to guarantee unfettered access for goods, services, and citizens throughout the United Kingdom.
And that if they or the EU were not prepared to honour the entirety of the agreement then they would be responsible for the permanent destruction of the agreement.
I think that we can see that the United Kingdom has no goal and no long term plan and that this is an absolute failure of leadership, and what have we gained, aside from a catastrophe that’s causing misery to millions of people and now endangering the region with resurrecting an old conflict that we all thought we’d long seen the back of.
It’s not just our negotiators who are at fault, this goes right to the top, and the question about how this is to be managed has been asked over and over again, but all we get from Boris Johnson and his forerunners is babble and claptrap and some vague hand waving, and ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it’.
But now we’re at that bridge, with Boris Johnson still refusing to cross, expecting the EU to come to him. Times up matey, there was lots of time and opportunity for preparation, and Boris still hasn’t come up with a solution.
The Brits left the EU to be autonomous and make decisions that affect their country without soliciting approval from Brussels and their courts to determine what is legal and what isn’t, but apparently, Boris Johnson has a plan, and anarchy is part of it.