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Hard Brexit is threat to Good Friday deal.

Byline: JONATHAN POWELL Chief Negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997-2007

BORIS Johnson claims Remainers are trying to use the Northern Ireland peace process to stop Brexit. In truth, it is the other way around.

The Brexiteers have woken up late in the day to the logical problem the Northern Ireland issue creates for their hard Brexit plan and they have decided to throw the Good Friday Agreement off the bus to save it. Kate Hoey says the agreement is "not sustainable in the long term".

Owen Paterson says it has "served its purpose and run its course" and, in a leaked letter, Boris himself appears to consider the option of a hard border not as bad as all that. All because if we are to avoid a hard border we cannot leave the customs union and the single market.

The British Government has committed itself in a bilateral agreement with the EU last December to avoiding a hard border.

Indeed, in her Article 50 letter to the EU, Theresa May asserted "the paramount importance of the Good Friday Agreement".

And she is right. The Good Friday Agreement has given 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland.

Jeopardising it just so Boris can get to the hard Brexit he desires would be foolish in the extreme.

The agreement was all about identity - people could feel Irish, British or both. Putting concrete blocks back on the small country roads across the border and imposing border checks will make that impossible. The threat is not of tipping the North back into the violence of the Troubles again but of bringing back identity politics making it impossible to restore the devolved government, which has already been defunct for a year.

The legal text tabled by the EU on Thursday crystallises Theresa May's dilemma. In December, she made a series of contradictory promises. She told the DUP there would be no border in the Irish Sea.

She told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar there would be no hard border between North and South. She told the Brexiteers the UK would leave the single market and the customs union. And she told the EU there would be continuing regulatory alignment.

She hoped she would get away with this constructive ambiguity until after the UK leaves the EU. Now she faces the legal text of a divorce agreement she will have to sign in October if the UK is to leave next March. She must choose: the Good Friday Agreement or leaving the single market and customs union.

Because she can't have both.

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PROBLEM Boris Johnson

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Title Annotation:News; Opinion; Columns
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 2, 2018
Words:429
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