‘All bets are off’ in hard border scenario

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the “erratic” and “dangerous” Boris Johnson cannot be trusted on Brexit. She said Johnson has forfeited credibility by unpicking the Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated earlier this year, and now cannot be believed when he says he wants a trade deal.

“He’s the prime minister and perfidious Albion just got perfidiouser, if there’s such a word,” she told the Guardian newspaper this week. If Britain did not reverse course and “honour a bargain fairly struck” it would face a backlash from Ireland’s allies in the EU and US, where congressional leaders could block Downing Street’s hopes of a US trade deal.

Political leaders in Ireland, the US and across Europe have warned that they will stand against Britain’s reneging on the Good Friday Agreement.

“If there is damage in Ireland, if there’s a hardening of the border – well, then all bets are off,” Ms McDonald said.

She also noted Britain was not honouring its commitment under the peace deal to call a referendum on Irish unification. She said British ministers had repeatedly refused to spell out the exact conditions that would trigger a vote.

“I wouldn’t like anybody in the British system to imagine that they hold a trump card that says ‘we will forever avoid or defer a referendum in Ireland’. They don’t have that right,” she said.

Sinn Féin have been speaking to US politicians regarding London’s move away from the Irish protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement, now the subject of legal action by the EU, and designed to help insulate the Good Friday Agreement from the effects of Brexit.

“The British government has demonstrated that it is prepared to play fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement and International Law,” Ms McDonald said.

“This is a fundamental challenge to our agreements, our economic interests, and the rights of citizens. It is a challenge that must be met across Ireland, across the EU and with our partners in the USA.”

There has been a strong resurgence of interest among powerful Irish Americans in the peace process in the wake of the recent developments on Brexit.

Speaking after an online meeting with the Congressional Friends of Ireland, an influential group within the US Congress, as well as a “very useful” meeting with the US Special Envoy to Ireland, Ms McDonald thanked political leaders in the USA for their “swift and decisive condemnation” of the British legislation to formally break their international treaty commitments.

“We are in the closing stages of a negotiation and it is not too late for the British Government to pull back and do the right thing; respect international law and honor their agreements,” she said.

“It is quite clear that if the British government’s action result in a hard border across Ireland and an undermining of the Good Friday Agreement there will be no trade deal between the US and Britain.”

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