As we all gear up for that liberation from the European Union on March 29 one of the things we keep being told is that the Good Friday Agreement demands that there be no border in Ireland. It is this which leads to all the shouting abut the backstop and all that. And yet, well, as far as I can tell at least, this is not true.
Obviously enough given that there is a border between the Republic and Northern Ireland – I’ve driven over it recently – the GFA cannot be demanding that there is no border. So, perhaps it says that there be no towers and fences? Or border checks? Or something? But if that’s so, where?
In other words, there is absolutely no chance (contrary to what Theresa May seems to be hoping) that the UK’s 27 EU partners will renegotiate the withdrawal agreement reached last November. We can understand the hard Brexiters’ frustration with the famous backstop, but they can’t blame the EU for inventing the Irish problem: the absence of a physical border is a key element of the Good Friday agreement, which put an end to a conflict that was a legacy of England’s colonisation of Ireland. The EU, as guarantor of the peace agreement, cannot accept a deal that would amount to re-establishing a physical border between the two Irelands.
We do keep being told this. But where actually is that insistence?
Here’s the Northern Ireland Act (1998) which is the translation of the Good Friday Agreement into law. Here’s the full text of the Good Friday Agreement. I’m finding it rather difficult to find where there is that insistence upon no border. Or no physical border. Or no towers, guns and goons border.
Can someone help out here? Where actually is this insistence? For it couldn’t possibly be true that it has just been invented by the European Union so they can stick their oar in, can it?