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Tony Blair says language of Good Friday Agreement will have to be amended due to Brexit

Blair said a hard border between the countries would be a disaster.

Updated at 12.55pm / YouTube

FORMER UK PRIME Minister Tony Blair, and one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, has said some of the language in the agreement will have to be amended because of Brexit.

In his address to the European People’s Party meeting in Druid’s Glen in Wicklow, Blair said:

A hard border between the countries would be a disaster and I am sure everyone will and must do all they can to avoid it.
In addition, the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was formulated on the assumption that both countries were part of the EU. This was not only for economic but also for political reasons, to take account particularly of nationalist aspirations.Some of the language will therefore require amendment because of Brexit. Again, with goodwill, including from our European partners, this should be achievable with the minimum of difficulty.

TONY BLAIR 758A9988_90511438

This raises questions as to how any re-wording or amending of the language of the agreement would be carried out.

So, what does he mean exactly?

When asked by the Irish media, he said there are bits of the Good Friday Agreement that specifically assume that Britain and the Irish Republic are in the European Union.

That creates a problem, said Blair.

“So there is obviously changes in language, but I don’t think it should be any change in substance,” said the former British Prime Minister. / YouTube

The border 

When asked what is the best way to forward to keep a seamless border between north and south, he said:

“I think the best thing is to treat Northern Ireland as a special case, treat this border as a special case, to make sure we keep the Common Travel Area so that people can move across the border freely.The biggest challenge is going to be the biggest challenge for the European Union because after Brexit then the border becomes the border between the UK and the European Union.

“I think if there is good will, a lot of ingenuity and innovation, and maybe, I don’t know, the use of technology and other things, I mean I think we can minimise disruption, but obviously I am worried about it, I worried about this during the referendum campaign,” said Blair.

Blair told the EPP meeting today that there is a consensus within British politics that the consequences of Brexit on the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK and on the peace process should be minimised as far as possible.

“Such a consensus will be crucial,” he said.

“Brexit uniquely impacts both the Republic and Northern Ireland. There has never been a situation where the UK, including Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, had a different status in respect of Europe. We have either both been out or both been in.”

tony blair epp wicklow009 Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister addressing the EPP conference on Brexit in Druids Glen Hotel, Wicklow. don macmonagle don macmonagle

“I hope we do everything we can to make the border as open as possible not just for people bu for the economic trade and commerce,” Blair told reporters as he exited the Druid’s Glen Hotel.

However, he conceded today that disruption to the Common Travel Area (CTA) will be “inevitable”.

He said the CTA “has meant ease of going back and forth across the border, vital for work and family connection has been in place for almost 100 years. And the absence of customs controls – both countries being in the Single Market and Customs Union – have meant a huge boost to UK-Irish trade”.

epp friday002_90511452 don macmonagle don macmonagle

Disruption is ‘inevitable’

“Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening. However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support,” said Blair.

At the conference EPP chair and German MEP Manfred Weber warned that despite what was emanating from London “this cannot be a win-win situation”.

“From our point of view we see no chance for a win-win situation – this will create damage. I hate to say this but this is the reality,” he said.

“We have tried to do this with a constructive approach but in the end this is a mistake and it is a mistake to go out of the European Union and that is what the British people will experience in the next years.”

‘Special situation’

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the implications of Brexit earlier this morning, Blair said that in the negotiations around the UK leaving the EU, Ireland and Northern Ireland were in a “special situation”.

“It’s really important that we understand that Northern Ireland and the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland stand in a special situation,” said Blair.

“And we need special arrangements in order to protect what we have achieved there.”

Much of the debate in Ireland around Brexit has focussed on the relationship between the Republic and the North of Ireland, where a soft border with freedom of movement is currently in place.

Blair said he believed that protecting this border was a priority for both EU and the Uk governments.

“It really would be a disaster to have a hard border,” he said.

“Proper mess”

In an interview last night, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan described the UK’s decision to leave the EU as a “proper mess”.

Speaking to The BBC’s Hardtalk programme, Flanagan said he saw no upside for Ireland in Brexit.

Flanagan said, however, that Brexit could make the long-term prospect of a united Ireland more likely, but he said that holding a border poll was neither “timely” nor appropriate.

Flanagan’s comments on Brexit come following yesterday’s visit by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier to Ireland.

Addressing the Dáil, Barnier said that Ireland is better in Europe and Europe is better with Ireland in it. He also expressed disappointment with the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald and Nicky Ryan.

Read: ‘Treated like Nelson Mandela or JFK’: International media say Ireland is trying to woo EU Brexit boss

Read: A non-EU parent has a right to residency if their child is an EU citizen

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