British Government Actions Have No Credibility or Justification
Members of Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Committee with
Members of the Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement in Washington this week.
Statement of the Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement
We note with deep regret the publication of the Government of the United Kingdom’s draft legislation, The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. We reject both the purported legal justification—“necessity”—and the purported political justification—“to protect the Good Friday Agreement.”
The legal justification has no credibility. The political justification is untrue. Quite perversely the Bill destabilizes the Good Friday Agreement, and if passed would egregiously breach international law.
The U.S.Congress has for over two decades been resolute in demonstrating its bipartisan commitment to protecting the GFA and has made it abundantly clear that there will be no trade deal with the UK if it continues to put the GFA in harm’s way. We urge President Biden to use all the diplomatic tools at his disposal to convey to the UK what is at risk and if necessary to suspend discussions on any future trade agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom and its authorized officials until such time as this Bill is rescinded.
In this instance, the United States must not be neutral between our allies in the UK and the European Union. The UK Government is acting in bad faith. We agree with Taoiseach Martin that the Bill is “a fundamental breach of trust.” It risks the stability of the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement of 1998 which has brought peace to Ireland. That agreement, which this committee was formed to defend, partly owes its genesis to the successive good offices of both Democratic and Republican administrations, and the constructive contributions of US Senators and Members of the House from both parties, US diplomats, public and private, special US envoys, and the deep engagements of many US citizens and many of our foremost businesses.
International law is broken if one party deliberately violates a treaty by invoking necessity when there is in fact no necessity to do so. Under Article 16 of the Ireland and Northern Ireland Protocol a method already exists for the Government of the UK to suspend parts of the Protocol immediately. Instead, the UK government has chosen to introduce this Bill, which will take time to pass through the two houses of the Westminster Parliament, perhaps up to a year.
Quite simply, the actions of the Johnson administration demonstrate that it has neither engaged with the EU in good faith, nor exhausted all legal avenues within the Protocol to resolve difficulties, real and imagined. Instead, it seeks to rely on an excuse that avoids its arguments being tested in UK courts.
The UK Government purports to justify its conduct as a valid response to alleged violations of the Good Friday Agreement by the Protocol (which it negotiated, signed, and ratified). But it cites no specific provision of the Good Friday Agreement which has been allegedly violated.
Bizarrely, the same UK Government has consistently instructed its lawyers in litigation against the Protocol to argue that it is fully compliant with the Good Friday Agreement, which it is.
The Protocol, in short, was negotiated and agreed to protect the Good Friday Agreement; it should not be unilaterally modified in a spurious defense of that Agreement.