Gerry Adams has warned that Brexit will wreck the fundamental human rights safeguards set out under the Good Friday Agreement. The Sinn Fein leader pointed out that rights enshrined in the 1998 peace deal would be negated by Britain simply pulling out of the EU.
At a conference in Dublin on Saturday on the theme of a united Ireland, Mr Adams warned that a Brexit forced on the people of the north of Ireland is a “hostile action”.
“The British government’s intention to take the North out of the EU, despite the wish of the people there to remain, is a hostile action. Not just because of the implications of a hard Border on this island but also because of its negative impact on the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“The British prime minister repeated her intention to bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European court. Along with her commitment to remove Britain from the European convention on human rights, this stand threatens to undermine the fundamental human rights elements of the Good Friday agreement.”
A statement from the British government later denied any element of the Good Friday Agreement, such as those relating to human rights, were undermined by Brexit. “These comments are totally without any basis in fact,” the government said.
Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie accused Mr Adams of using “inflammatory” words that could be seen as “inciting violence”.
“For him to say Brexit will destroy the Belfast Agreement will cause fear,” he said. “When these comments are added to the inflammatory language that Brexit can be viewed as a hostile act, he invites the notion that could be interpreted by some physical force republicans, that a hostile act could justifiably be countered by other hostile acts.”
However, a former senior member of the European Commission has described how he expects the new controls will operate at the Irish border.
Michael Lux, the former head of the Commission’s customs procedures unit has said “red and green lanes” could be introduced as a form of customs control. “So there would be two lanes for vehicles; a green one where you are only occasionally stopped and a red lane if you carry goods above the threshold,” he told the BBC.
Concerns over plans for border controls have lingered despite repeated statements by British officials that there would be “no return to the borders of the past”.
Mr Adams said instead there needed to be a new drive to promote “a new agreed Ireland”. He said the British position fails to take account of the fact that citizens in the north, under the Good Friday Agreement, have a right to Irish citizenship and therefore EU citizenship.”
There was no strategic plan from Dublin ministers, he added. “The dangers of a hard Brexit are now more obvious than before. The north needs a special designated status within the EU.”