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Why Unionism should reject the monstrous UK-EU deal 

 By Jamie Bryson

 This morning’s agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the European Union negotiators is a monstrous deal that not only strengthens the failed Belfast Agreement, but opens the door to an economic United Ireland.

  

Here is why; 

[1] At paragraph 42 the UK Government and EU negotiators affirm that the “achievements, benefits and commitments of the peace process will remain of paramount important to peace, stability and reconciliation.” It is only natural that this affirmation would be followed by an explanation of how exactly the ‘peace process’ is defined. Paragraph 42 goes on to say “They (both parties) agree that the Belfast Agreement reached on 10 April 1998 by the United Kingdom Government, the Irish Government and other participants in the multi-party negotiations (the ‘1998 Agreement) must be protected in all its parts….”. 

Therefore the affirmation in the first sentence of paragraph 42 must be read in conjunction with the second part of paragraph 42, which outlines how their (both parties) affirmation is given practical effect. 

This is the closest entwining of ‘peace’ with the political project that one is every likely to see. By stating that the commitments of the ‘peace process’, which presumably is defined as the Northern Ireland Act 1998, is of paramount importance to peace, the Government welds itself to the position of affirming that only the Belfast Agreement can secure peace. 

This elevates the Belfast Agreement above the status of a political policy that can be challenged, or changed, and instead gives it the status of an immovable constitution. That is an outrageous position for any government to adopt within a civilised democracy. 

Further still, the logic of this position is that should the democratic majority wish to repeal or amend the Northern Ireland Act 1998, that this would affect peace. 

Therefore, it inextricably entwines peace with the political project, and draws the reader to the conclusion that the Belfast Agreement is the only bulwark preventing a return to violence. This absurd position essentially provides a veto, and justification, to those that would use violence in order to extract political concessions. It is an enormous statement by any sovereign Government. 

[2] Paragraph 44 commits the UK Government, under the principle of consent, to respecting Northern Ireland’s position as an integral part of the United Kingdom. This is hardly a concession for unionism. It simply states the factual position. 

[3] Paragraph 49 commits the UK, in the absence of agreed solutions, to full alignment, in relation to the Customs Union and Single Market, on issues relating to North-South cooperation. Given North-South cooperation would have no relevance elsewhere in the United Kingdom, this commits only Northern Ireland to full alignment with the Customs Union and Single Market. This is no different than the monstrous proposal put forward on Monday. 

[4] Paragraph 50 hands a veto to the NI Assembly, and thus unionism, in relation to new regulatory barriers. It says nothing about how this corresponds with the Government’s commitment in para 49 for full alignment on North/South cooperation issues. It simply restates the obvious position that one part of the United Kingdom cannot be divided by a border from another part. 

[5] Paragraph 52 reaffirms the preposterous situation in relation the birthright of those born within Northern Ireland. This differentiates Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom and creates a situation whereby those born in Northern Ireland are British-Irish hybrids. It is a roadmap to neutrality, and harmonisation. 

Any unionist supporting this deal is supporting the Belfast Agreement, which runs through the heart of the proposed North-South arrangements outlined within the UK-EU text. 

The Belfast Agreement has failed, one only needs to look at the fact that the contrived mandatory coalition system has left us without a Government, therefore those committing to this deal are committing to the failed Belfast Agreement. 

The DUP have consistently held that they oppose the Belfast Agreement. This UK-EU text further embeds the Belfast Agreement, therefore the DUP are supporting the strengthening and enhancement of the very agreement they told us they were committed to rolling back. 

Unionist demands of the UK Gov should have went far beyond the paltry recognition of the the fact that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the United Kingdom. The DUP should have instead leveraged the Government into, at the very least, amending the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Only then could the DUP claim that they remain opponents of the Belfast Agreement have any credence 

In what other civilised democracy would a sovereign government affirming the constitutional integrity of their own lawful territory be viewed as some kind of victory? 

It is preposterous to try and sell paragraph 50 as a victory for unionism. It is simply stating the lawful sovereign position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. That is a matter of fact, not a concession or victory. 

No unionist should accept or approve a deal that provides for even greater North-South cooperation and sets the default position for Northern Ireland as operating within a framework which would essentially deliver an economic United Ireland. 

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