Belfast Agreement ‘remains as relevant now as it has ever done’ – former NI secretary

James Brokenshire’s comments come as Sinn Féin describes Brexit as ‘not compatible’ with agreement

James Brokenshire: ‘I was very, very clear on how the Belfast Agreement underpins the situation’. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

James Brokenshire: ‘I was very, very clear on how the Belfast Agreement underpins the situation’. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has insisted the Belfast Agreement “remains as relevant now as it has ever done.”

His comments come in the week that pro-Brexit politicians have raised concerns about the agreement with one saying it was “unsustainable”, while Sinn Féin has described Brexit as “not compatible” with the agreement.

“I was very, very clear on how the Belfast Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, underpins the situation, the whole freedoms, the whole arrangements on the island of Ireland, how that remains as relevant now as it has ever done,” Mr Brokenshire told BBC One’s Sunday Politics programme. “I think actually there is a ground of commonality on realising just how important this is.”

Mr Brokenshire, who stepped down from the post of Northern Ireland Secretary last month to undergo lung cancer treatment, said the Belfast Agreement “continues to underpin and needs to define how we look to the future”.

Speaking in London on Thursday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described Brexit as an “imminent threat to the economic, social and political functioning of Ireland in its totality” and warned it was “not compatible” with the Belfast Agreement, which was signed almost 20 years ago.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Brexit cannot undermine the hard won gains of the Northern Ireland peace process.

On a trip to the US, Mr Coveney said a strategic objective of the Brexit negotiations for Ireland was the creation of the closest possible future connection between the European Union and the UK. He said that it was in the EU’s interests and over whelmingly in Ireland’s interests to have a confident and co-operative UK on its doorstep.

“The other key strategic objective for us is to ensure that the outcome of Brexit does not in any way undermine the hard won gains of the peace process, as exemplified by the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Coveney said.

Meanwhile, more than 80 senior figures from across the Labour Party have signed a statement warning Jeremy Corbyn that key policies would be unaffordable if the UK leaves the single market.

As well as hitting funding for schools, hospitals and social care, leaving the single market would also raise the prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that would threaten the Belfast Agreement, the letter says.