Perfidious Albion 2020

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The political clock has been turned sharply back as the world grapples once again with a British government acting in bad faith on Ireland and blithely reneging on peace deals.

Politicians across Europe and the US have been dumbfounded by the decision of Boris Johnson to unilaterally break the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, an international treaty signed amid great fanfare and self-congratulations by the Tories just nine months ago.

Those who trusted London to uphold the Good Friday Agreement have once again been made to look foolish after legislation brought before Westminster specifically reneges on protections for the border through Ireland.

A timescale of three weeks has now been set to try to rescue not only the Brexit deal, but the credibility of Johnson’s government.

Leaders of the north’s pro-Remain parties - Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance Party and the Green Party - have written a joint letter demanding that the terms of the international treaty are honoured.

They said that seeking to abandon the safeguards and mitigations would amount to a ‘serious betrayal’, adding: “It would represent a shocking act of bad faith that would critically undermine the Good Friday Agreement political framework and peace process and the UK’s ability to secure other crucial deals to protect the Northern Ireland economy.”

A range of powerful US political figures, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have also spoken out vowing that there will be ‘no chance’ of a US-UK trade deal without a u-turn on the legislation.

The row has all but negated years of talks to secure the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocol on Ireland, during which the importance of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland was recognised by even the most jingoistic of Tory MPs.

It will now need to once again be affirmed that the island of Ireland will be treated as a single trade unit, and that there will be no requirement for checks along the border, both essential to prevent a material breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

The development has also opened up a division within the DUP, with leader Arlene Foster last week saying she ‘recognises the reality’ of the Irish protocol, while colleague Sammy Wilson insisted the party would not accept the Withdrawal Agreement at all.

With a rapidly approaching deadline to the Brexit talks, some commentators believe Johnson and his Brexit ‘war cabinet’ are again trying to use Ireland to increase pressure on the EU.

Despite the horrors of the coronavirus, there is no doubt the people of Ireland are being used as hostages by Britain in a European power play. With historical precedents dating back hundreds of years, no one can underestimate the danger of such a strategy.

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