Joe Biden’s Brexit intervention is deeply disturbing, writes Jonathan Buckley, Member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly:
The would-be President tweeted this week: “We cannot allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the U.S and U.K must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
But peace advanced with the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and subsequent agreements. Each and every one of those agreements required the support of a majority of both of the main communities to work, never only one.
The Belfast Agreement was not a perfect document and sections of it have since been amended. However, one cornerstone was accepting Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as a full part of the United Kingdom. Another was not to resort to the use of undemocratic threat.
Some have tried to ignore both – ignoring NI as a full member of the UK and willing to talk up terrorist threat.
Part of this discourse has been claiming breaches of the Belfast Agreement, but rarely are they asked what has been breached.
Joe Biden has made a Twitter claim, now he has to back it up. Let him name which part of the Good Friday Agreement has been broken. If he can’t or won’t then he is doing what he repeatedly accuses President Trump of doing. Or is he, as I believe, parroting lines without thinking or knowing any better?
Following the United Kingdom’s democratic decision to leave the European Union, Northern Ireland’s 310 mile border with the Republic of Ireland is the only land border between the UK and the EU. We now find ourselves in the compromising position of being used as a bargaining chip by the EU and Ireland as a trade deal is negotiated.
In response to Biden’s assertion, we have the right to ask ‘‘What exactly makes borders inside the United Kingdom any more acceptable than one with Ireland?’’ How does that respect the decision that NI is a full part of the UK?
For Unionists, sadly we are not entirely surprised by uninformed interventions, but that does not lessen our right to demand better from those who seek to insert themselves into our politics.
Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have both emerged to threaten damaging Northern Ireland and its relationship with Britain to appease an interest group, not to help solve anything. NI’s largest international export market is the United States of America, a trade deal would help our economic growth. Something all are agreed would cement peace. Yet Biden and Pelosi threaten rather than promote a deal? Senseless.
Next year, Northern Ireland will celebrate the Centenary of its foundation.
Rather than dwelling on our troubled past I wish to look forward with optimism and at grasping the opportunity to build on peace and prosperity within Northern Ireland. Prosperity is essential towards building peace. A trade border between Northern Ireland and its largest market, (the rest of the UK) would harm it and an UK USA trade deal would help it.
So I challenge Biden once again – what sections of the Good Friday Agreement have been broken? If he can’t identify them then he should be strong enough to retract and rather than threaten a UK-USA trade deal work for one that will benefit everyone in Northern Ireland.
The story of America would be poorer without the Scotch-Irish and the Irish included and may very well never have succeeded. Peace was created in Northern Ireland by including Unionist and Nationalist with partners that picked peace, not a side. The path to failure is to exclude any one of those elements.
Biden is choosing to exclude Unionists and has picked a side, why is he choosing a path to failure?