Brexit threatens political co-operation in Northern Ireland, says man who negotiated Good Friday Agreement

Senator George Mitchell believes fact both UK and Ireland were members of EU was 'important factor' in starting peace process

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 26 February 2017 13:43
Brexit 'may reduce prospect of co-operation' in Northern Ireland

The man credited with brokering the Good Friday agreement has warned that Brexit may threaten “the prospect of peace co-operation” in Northern Ireland.

Former US Senator George Mitchell said he hoped the UK’s decision to leave the European Union would not stop the establishment of a new power-sharing government in Stormont ahead of the assembly elections on 3 March.

He told Sky News: “I believe that the European Union was an important factor that led the United Kingdom and Ireland to co-operate in establishing a process that led to the Good Friday Agreement and I think the UK being out of the European Union may reduce the prospect for further co-operation.”

Secretary of State James Brokenshire called new elections last month after republican party Sinn Fein pulled out of the power-sharing government following a financial scandal involving DUP First Minister Arlene Foster.

The party’s long-standing Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, also stood down due to poor health last month.

Many in Northern Ireland, which voted Remain, are worried about a possible return to border controls between it and the Republic of Ireland as the UK is likely to opt for hard Brexit – which could lead to an increase in violence and instability.

Last month, Stormont’s leaders were given a fresh blow when the Supreme Court ruled the UK Government did not have to get the approval of the country's regional parliaments to trigger Article 50.

The Independent revealed last month that they were planning to block Article 50 if they felt that not enough consideration was being paid to the peace process.

The Good Friday agreement was signed by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Irish Taoiseach Bernie Ahern in 1998 ending decades of fighting known as the Troubles.

The agreement led to the formation of the Northern Ireland Assembly, known as Stormont, which is jointly controlled by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

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