NI: Rights campaigners urge government not to use peace process as Brexit ‘bargaining chip’

NI: Rights campaigners urge government not to use peace process as Brexit 'bargaining chip'

Human rights campaigners have warned the UK government not to use the Northern Ireland peace process as a “bargaining chip” in the latest round of Brexit negotiations.

The intervention comes after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs yesterday that provisions in the Internal Market Bill would “break international law in a very specific and limited way”.

Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium in Northern Ireland, said the government’s willingness to break the law “has a direct and clearly worrying impact on the future application of the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol”.

He added: “The Protocol was at the heart of protecting the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the principle of non-diminution of rights as the UK exits the EU.

“If the UK government are already stating that they are prepared to renege on its commitments under this agreement, before the transition period has even ended, then it bodes poorly for the future of other elements of that Agreement as we move forward.

“The principle of respect for international law and the legal commitments already in place under the Withdrawal Agreement and EU Withdrawal Act need to be respected and upheld.”

Brian Gormally, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), said: “With this shocking statement from Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, the UK Government demonstrated its contempt for the rule of law and the peace process on the island of Ireland.

“What was to be agreed is now to be at the whim of government ministers. What was regarded as binding international law is now to be ripped up as part of a negotiating tactic. How is it now possible to have any trust in the good faith of this government?”

Paddy Kelly, director of the Children’s Law Centre in Northern Ireland, said: “The Children’s Law Centre is deeply concerned about the UK government’s intention to unpick the Withdrawal Agreement and Ireland/NI Protocol and their willingness to ‘break international law’.

“It is clear the UK government has given no consideration to the implications for the Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement, another international treaty they have failed to fully implement. Their actions threaten the peace process and the future of all children and young people in Northern Ireland.”

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