The group Border Communities Against Brexit will protest at five locations on the border on Saturday, November 20, in support of the Irish Protocol and to stop the London government from moving to collapse the Brexit accords.
It has accused the British government of damaging the peace process with its threats to suspend elements of the Brexit treaties.
London’s actions are said to be motivated by unionist anger over new checks on trade between Britain and Ireland. However, the triggering of Article 16 could lead to a trade war between Britain and the EU the return of a remilitarised ‘hard’ border through Ireland.
The group will stage demonstrations at Flurry Bridge in Carrickcarnon, Belcoo/Blacklion, Moybridge in Aughnacloy, the Lifford Bridge and Bridgend in Derry from 3pm on November 20th.
Speaking this week, chairman Damian McGinnity said: “Boris Johnson’s government has been pursuing a reckless course in negotiations with the EU around the protocol, including threats to trigger Article 16.
“Recent British government statements and actions are posing a very direct threat to the peace process, the all-island economy and raising once again the horrific prospect of a return to a hard border in Ireland.
“We are calling on Boris Johnson to back off, and to protect and implement the protocol.”
Economic indicators show business and employment are booming in the north of Ireland, with more and more firms reporting plans to move to the area to avail of market access under the Brexit arrangements. However, some unionists have expressed fears that increased business activity and cross-border trade could help bring about Irish reunification.
Mr McGinnity said many in the north of Ireland believe the Protocol is doing its job of protecting the region from the worst impacts of Brexit.
“Communities, businesses, workers, farmers and students along the Border want the Protocol to be implemented in order to protect jobs, livelihoods and community life on this island,” he said.
“Businesses, manufacturers and farmers are benefitting from the protocol and thousands of jobs are being created and secured as a direct result of it.
“The Protocol has mitigated the worst effects of Brexit for communities such as ours.
“The majority of people and political parties in the North opposed Brexit and support the protocol as the key mechanism to prevent a hard border and protect the all-island economy and Good Friday Agreement.”
Some 40 million vehicle movements take place across the border through Ireland annually. The Protocol ensures these can continue without checks after Brexit, meaning life in the area can remain as normal as possible without hugely provocative border infrastructure.
British prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to insist that the use of Article 16 would be “legitimate” and “perfectly legal”. London’s Brexit negotiator David Frost has set a December deadline for a resolution in the talks.
Amid confusion over its strategy, Mr McGinnity criticised the British government’s approach to the issue as damaging to the peace in the north of Ireland.
“The dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric emanating from Boris Johnson’s government is now undermining all of the progress we have made in recent years,” he said.
“They need to listen to the concerns of Border communities, to businesses and to farmers who will be devastated by any triggering of Article 16.
“Communities along the Border are determined not to be dragged back to the past, it is shocking after years of Brexit uncertainty for Border communities that a deal which was signed only a very short time ago is being torn apart.
“We will not allow any reimposition of a hard border and the untold social and economic damage this would cause. We will not allow the peace process to be undermined.”
Despite reports of movement in the talks between London and Brussels, trust that the Tory government is negotiating in good faith remains low. There are fears British negotiators are merely seeking to delay a likely trade war with the EU until after Christmas.
But international pressure has continued for Britain to finally honour the accords it signed earlier this year.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the London government that following through on a threat to trigger Article 16 is “the most irresponsible thing that could be done right now”.
She feared the move would be made to deliberately “stoke tensions” because “there is a perception that plays well with domestic audiences”.
EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic said there had been a change in tone but that concrete progress was still lacking, pointing to the need for a deal on medical supplies in particular.
“There is a genuine urgency. We welcome the progress this week. We now need to press on and get this crucial issue across the line. This is a real test of political goodwill.”
Border Communities Against Brexit is asking everyone living along the Border, on either side, to make an effort to attend their nearest demonstration.
“We are calling on all trade unions, representative groups, civic leaders, sporting organisations and citizens to join with us on Saturday, 20th November, at 3pm to say loudly to Boris Johnson to back off and protect the protocol,” Mr McGinnity said.