Tony Blair: EU Needs to ‘Significantly’ Change Position on Northern Ireland to Keep Good Friday Peace

Former prime minister Tony Blair during a speech to mark the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Labour party, in the Great Hall at King's College, London. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on the European Union to make “significant” changes to how it views Northern Ireland in order to preserve the peace reached under the Good Friday Agreement.

Blair, who was staunchly against Brexit and in favour of remaining in the European Union, called for a face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen in order to break the gridlock of bureaucracy and surprisingly suggested that the bloc should give up its hardline stance of imposing an effective sea border within the United Kingdom.

In an article published on the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’s website, the former PM wrote that a solution to the dispute would “require significant movement from the EU on its stated position around the protocol’s interpretation.”

“My judgement – with long experience of EU negotiations – is that things have reached such a state of distrust that the two bureaucratic systems will not settle this; it has to be done at the highest political level because, ultimately, it is not a matter of technical work but political will and leadership,” Blair added.

Though Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, it was effectively separated from the rest of the country by the Brexit agreement singed by Prime Minster Boris Johnson, which empowered the European Union to impose customs and other trade barriers between the region and Great Britain as well as giving the European Court of Justice jurisdiction over trade disputes.

In addition to the economic hardship imposed on the UK citizens of the Ulster region, the dispute has also seen renewed violence as well as Unionists refusing to form a devolved government in Stormont with Irish nationalists, which was a key requirement of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal.

In order to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom, the Johnson administration has threatened to tear up the relevant sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit divorce deal. The EU, for its part, has threatened to levy sanctions upon the UK should Johnson unilaterally pull out.

The intervention by Blair is significant in that it may serve to also loosen the hardline stance taken by the globalist pro-European Biden administration in the United States, given the former prime minister’s role in negotiating the peace agreement alongside the Clinton administration which may give his arguments some credibility in Washington.

The Biden administration, and other senior Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have consistently sided with the European Union over London in the dispute, and have even threatened to hold up a post-Brexit trade deal with America over the issue.

Indeed, the Democrat leadership even failed to condemn the European Union actually violating the agreement during the pandemic, in which the bloc attempted to establish a hard land border on the island of Ireland in order to prevent shipments of vaccines from reaching Britain.

In order to prevent further disputes, Tony Blair called for the creation of a new class of goods dubbed “Northern Ireland approved” which would only be made for sale in Norther Ireland and therefore businesses could avoid the onerous regulations from the EU. The former prime minister also called for the use of independent arbitration panels rather than the European Court of Justice to handle trade disputes.

In response to the article from Blair, the leader of the pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told The Telegraph: “The Protocol threatens our place in the United Kingdom, endangers jobs for our people, drives up costs for consumers and reduces choice on our shelves. We’re making progress but we need to keep moving.

“In stating ‘it is not a matter of technical work but political will and leadership’, Tony Blair is correct. He is also correct to say that the Protocol is a bad deal and is undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

“The EU should take note and recognise the harm the Protocol is doing to political stability in Northern Ireland. The political will to get a solution which respects Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom has been absent for too long.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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