Good Friday Agreement: Government told to scrap ECHR & REUL plans in light of 25th anniversary

The Government is facing fresh calls to drop moves that threaten to undermine the Northern Ireland peace agreement in light of its 25th anniversary today.

The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the former British Ambassador to the US, and Best for Britain, which helped coordinate opposition to the Government’s law-breaking NI Protocol Bill, are today calling on the government to drop the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill  and to end threats to withdraw Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The REUL Bill, which was due to be put to the vote in the House of Lords this month but which has now been delayed, would scrap thousands of standards, protections and rights which Parliament passed while the UK was an EU member. 

Opponents to the plan have argued that the resulting drastic divergence would not only unleash great economic damage in Britain but would have a worse impact in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to share a border with the EU.

The UK Government has also not backed down from threats to withdraw the UK from the ECHR in pursuit of controversial plans to deport asylum seekers and refugees. 

The ECHR is directly cited in the text of the Good Friday Agreement, guaranteeing people in Northern Ireland ECHR protections under its terms. There are concerns that withdrawing the UK from the ECHR would be a breach of this international agreement.  

Lord Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 2005-2007, who brokered the St Andrews Agreement which restored power sharing in 2007 said,

“The EU is the greatest peace project in human history and it was within the context of the EU, where borders are invisible and sovereignty shared, that a resolution to Northern Ireland’s seemingly intractable conflict was found.

“Despite the welcome maturity shown with the Windsor Framework, dogmatic adherence to Brexit ideology and nativism continues to threaten this delicate peace and it is essential that the Government recognises the risks to the Good Friday Agreement if they force the UK out of the ECHR or blindly scrap important legislation.”

Former British Ambassador to the USA and Chairman of Best for Britain, Kim Darroch said,

“Twenty five years ago, after intensive work with our friends and allies in Dublin, Brussels and Washington, we signed one of the most important agreements of modern times. This was a model of diplomatic engagement, transformational for Northern Ireland, and a shining example of the benefits of internationalism. 

“The message it carries for today is that we need to continue to work constructively with others, to honour our international commitments, and to abandon ideas that would put these principles at risk, like the Retained EU Law Bill.”

Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain said,

“There was a time when Britain’s reputation for negotiation, diplomacy and upholding international agreements was beyond probity, and the Good Friday Agreement was a proud part of that legacy.

“The Government must return to that same approach now, working with our closest neighbours, upholding its obligations and treaties, not tearing up EU standards and undermining this important peace agreement over an obsession with barges and boats.”