Good Friday Agreement No Hard Border

The two main political parties in the deal were the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) led by David Trimble and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) led by John Hume. The two Heads of State and Government jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. The other parties involved in the deal were Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and the Progressive Unionist Party. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which later became the largest Unionist party, did not support the deal. She left the talks when Sinn Féin and the loyalist parties joined because republican and loyalist paramilitary weapons had not been downgraded. After Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would become the only land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union. If there weren`t a deep enough trade deal between the UK and the EU, it would likely mean controls on goods that go beyond it. The agreement contains a commitment by the British and Irish governments to develop “close cooperation between their countries as friendly neighbours and partners of the European Union” – of course, in 1998 there was no idea that the UK would vote to leave the EU 18 years later. The Belfast Agreement is also known as the Good Friday Agreement because it was concluded on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It was an agreement between the British and Irish governments and most of Northern Ireland`s political parties on how Northern Ireland should be governed. The talks that led to the agreement focused on issues that had led to conflicts in recent decades. The aim was to create a new decentralised government for Northern Ireland, in which unionists and nationalists would share power. FactCheckNI has already published an article explaining the historical experience of the customs and security border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Under the terms of the protocol agreed after the UK`s withdrawal from the EU, Northern Ireland will effectively remain part of the EU`s single market for trade, in line with EU rules on agriculture and products, with customs controls taking place before goods from the rest of the UK enter Northern Ireland. The deal was aimed at avoiding the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, which many feared would fuel tensions in Northern Ireland, where in the second half of the 20th century. For about three decades, sectarian conflicts raged. The result of these referendums was a large majority in both parts of Ireland in favour of the agreement. In the republic, 56% of voters voted, with 94% of the vote in favour of the constitutional amendment. Turnout in Northern Ireland was 81%, with 71% in favour of the deal. In addition, a section on economic issues indicates that, until decentralisation, the UK government should move forward with a regional development strategy that addresses “the problems of a divided society and social cohesion in urban, rural and border areas”. The prospect of imposing an Irish land border would disrupt the Northern Irish economy; it would also impose heavy political costs on the EU.

For these reasons, a referendum in Northern Ireland should be proposed, discussed and organised as soon as possible. This could be the last chance to get rid of the backstop, as Prime Minister Johnson so desperately wants, while giving London the feeling of an orderly Brexit. During the riots, there were heavily fortified barracks, police stations and watchtowers along the border. They were frequently attacked by Republican paramilitaries. One of Boris Johnson`s first steps as prime minister was to roll back the so-called “backstop” provision, which turned out to be the most controversial part of the Brexit deal negotiated between Theresa May and the EU. The backstop would temporarily keep the UK in the European Union`s customs union until a permanent solution is found that would avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Province. It could be argued that a hard border would go against the spirit of this part of the agreement, but again, there is no specific prohibition. In the context of political violence during the unrest, the agreement committed participants to “exclusively democratic and peaceful means of settling disputes over political issues.” This included two aspects: “Avoiding a hard border has been placed at the heart of this process as a priority for the UK and the EU, recognising the symbolism of the current border opening.” The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement does not exclude Northern Ireland or Ireland from the establishment of cross-border checkpoints and other security measures. However, an explicit objective of the UK`s withdrawal agreement is to minimise physical border controls. The agreement contained a complex set of provisions covering a number of areas, including: The multi-party agreement committed the parties to “use any influence they might have” to proceed with the dismantling of all paramilitary weapons within two years of the referendums approving the agreement. The standardisation process committed the BRITISH government to reducing the number and role of its armed forces in Northern Ireland “to a level compatible with a normal peaceful society”. These included the removal of security arrangements and the lifting of special emergency powers in Northern Ireland.

The Irish government has committed to a “full review” of its violations of state law. A recent poll shows that “55% of respondents [in Northern Ireland] would certainly or probably support a united Ireland if the UK left without a deal, with that proportion falling to 48% if the UK left under the withdrawal agreement and only 29% if the UK remained in the EU”. Whatever the outcome of an actual vote, it at least suggests that the historical divisions may be less important to Northern Irish voters than the threat of a hard Brexit. Under that agreement, the British and Irish Governments undertook to hold referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic on 22 May 1998 respectively. The referendum in Northern Ireland is expected to endorse the agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations. The referendum on the Republic of Ireland should endorse the British-Irish Agreement and facilitate the amendment of the Constitution of Ireland in accordance with the Agreement. .

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