The Prime Minister personally negotiated this protocol. He has a personal responsibility to make it work for communities, and the peace process must always come first, yet this Government’s actions repeatedly destabilise it.
By the Labour Outlook Team.
Speaking at a debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP stressed the urgent need for the Government to uphold its commitment to both the Good Friday Agreement and the protocol itself.
She argued that by suggesting that the protocol is not sustainable in its current form, the government is on a reckless path, and that the Prime Minister, who personally negiticated the protocol, has a responsibility to ensure the peace process is put first.
You can read the MP for Streatham’s contribution below.
We should all support those aims [of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, to uphold the Good Friday Agreement]. In this Parliament, we have a historical and moral responsibility in relation to the whole of Ireland, yet we debate Government policy on this matter too little. It is a reminder that both the Good Friday agreement and the protocol are solemn and binding international treaties. From a moral point of view, this country should uphold the treaties that it signs. Supporting our commercial and other self-interests also dictates that we should follow the spirit and letter of these treaties.
I am afraid to say, however, that the Government have not fully upheld either treaty. Please do not just take my word for it—this is what the EU negotiators and the US Government believe. Why else would they issue this country with a formal diplomatic reprimand or a démarche? Otherwise, most importantly, it is what parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly believe. They think that this Government are trying to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol, which is a part of the Brexit treaty. They believe, too, that the Government are behaving recklessly in terms of the effect of undermining the Good Friday agreement. They also think that if loyalists commit violence on the streets of Belfast and in other areas, they believe that they are encouraged by the British Government in their joint aim of tearing up the protocol. What other inference are they supposed to draw when Ministers go to Belfast, meet members of the Loyalist Communities Council and say afterwards that the protocol they signed is not sustainable in its current form?
The motion also talks of upholding the Good Friday agreement in all its dimensions, with which I wholeheartedly agree, but I think we may mean very different things by that. The Good Friday agreement is 23 years old, but large parts of it remain unimplemented. Where is the Bill of Rights that was promised? Where, too, is the recourse to the European convention on human rights in the courts of Northern Ireland that was also promised, or the convention’s full incorporation in British law, or the language Act? I could go on.
I fear that opponents of the protocol want to rip out one phrase of the Good Friday agreement regarding not changing the constitutional position without consent, but this cuts both ways. It was the determination of Government Members to have a disastrous Brexit that changed the constitutional position, and it was against the will of the people in Ireland who voted clearly to remain in the EU. Consent was not given. It is this Government who have upset the status quo, this Government who signed the treaty and this Government who now want to change elements they do not like. I am afraid that that is not how treaties work. If they continue to try to have their cake and eat it on the protocol, they will come up against opposition from Labour Members, the EU Commission, President Biden and from the people of Ireland.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister personally negotiated this protocol. He has a personal responsibility to make it work for communities, and the peace process must always come first, yet this Government’s actions repeatedly destabilise it. This is a reckless path and they should cease and desist.
- Bell Ribeiro-Addy is the MP Streatham, she was speaking a debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol, Thursday 15 July 2021.