Irish Govt Accused of Exploiting Brexit Border Debate to Turn Ulster Into ‘EU Protectorate’

PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images
PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

Veteran statesman Lord David Trimble has rebuked Irish leader Leo Varadkar for “riding roughshod” over the peace process in Ulster, and seeking to turn the British province of Northern Ireland into an “EU protectorate”.

Lord Trimble was the first man to occupy the post of First Minister of Northern Ireland and is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which was the main party in the Province representing voters who support the Union with Great Britain until its displacement by the more eurosceptic, working-class Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Now a Tory peer in the House of Lords, he has weighed into the ongoing dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the question of the border between British Ulster and the Republic of Ireland, accusing the bloc in general and Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar in particular of exploiting the issue for political gain.

Lord Trimble made his remarks in a foreword to Policy Exchange paper  ‘The Irish Border and the Principle of Consent’, by Dr Graham Gudgin, which examined the issue in some detail.

“It is clear to me that the Irish side in the Brexit negotiations is undermining the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, riding roughshod over its terms and violating its spirit,” he stated bluntly.

The current proposals for maintaining an open, customs-free border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland hinge on Britain remaining in the EU’s Customs Union as a so-called ‘backstop solution’ — which would effectively preclude Britain from regaining an independent trade policy and striking lucrative deals with countries such as the United States and Australia — with the bloc pushing for an additional ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would see Northern Ireland alone remaining in the Customs Union, undermining its place in the British single market.

“There is a genuine risk that Northern Ireland will end up as part of an effective EU protectorate, without the say-so of the Northern Ireland assembly,” Lord Trimble warns.

“This would be an appalling breach of the principle of consent, which runs through the [Good Friday] agreement.”

Most residents of Northern Ireland support the Province’s place in the United Kingdom, as established by a referendum in 1973 and British Unionist parties consistently outperforming Irish nationalist parties in regional elections.

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