Northern Ireland groups warn Brexit bill could harm peace process

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London, Sept. 21, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Civil society groups in Northern Ireland on Monday urged the British government to drop a plan to override part of its EU withdrawal agreement, warning that the move could jeopardise the territory’s fragile peace process.

British lawmakers are expected to approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Markets Bill on Tuesday in spite of critics warning that superseding the Brexit agreement could break international law and erode trust with Brussels.

Johnson wants to create a legal “safety net” giving him the power to override a provision in the withdrawal agreement that would impose different post-Brexit customs rules on Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The provision seeks to prevent the creation of border checks between Northern Ireland, which is leaving the EU as part of the United Kingdom, and EU-member Ireland.

Seven civil society groups said Johnson’s bill, if passed, would “jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement and the functioning of devolved government” in Northern Ireland.

It would “contravene international law and undermine … rights and equality protections,” they said in a joint statement.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement underpins Northern Ireland’s peace process, which ended decades of sectarian violence.

The Northern Ireland Protocol in the withdrawal agreement “does not just deal with tariffs and trade, though avoidance of a hard land border is vital,” the groups said.

“Its full implementation is also fundamental to the protection of equality and human rights, which form the bedrock of the Good Friday Agreement.”

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