Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller takes her ‘End the Chaos’ message to Newry
George Mitchell sends support, calling for deal negotiators to show political courage
Campaigner Gina Miller arrives at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre in Newry. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Former US senator George Mitchell, who played a central role in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, has appealed to Brexit negotiators not to forsake the hard won peace in Northern Ireland.
His message was read out in support of Brexit campaigner Gina Miller’s “End the Chaos” campaign which was in Newry, Co Down on Friday.
Ms Miller rose to prominence on the back of a court action in the UK that ensured the government would have to secure parliamentary approval for its plans to exit the EU.
Before quoting from Mr Mitchell, she described the former senator as a “towering figure” in the peace process.
“Senator Mitchell has asked me to share with you the following message: ‘I hope the current leaders of Northern Ireland, of Ireland, of the United Kingdom and the European Union as they today reflect on their responsibilities will look back 20 years to what their predecessors did’,” she said.
The message continued: “The political leaders of that time, in dangerous and difficult circumstances, after lifetimes devoted to conflict, summoned extraordinary courage and vision and reached agreement, often at great risk to themselves, their families, their political careers.”
He then referenced the political agreement on Brexit reached last December not to the re-establish a hard border and wrote: “We all should insist that they keep their promise.”
Ms Miller’s stop in Newry was attended by a small audience who were addressed by two panels on the intricacies and potential outcomes of a no-deal Brexit.
Her campaign has also released an accompanying website seeking to publish factual information on the issue of the UK’s pending departure.
Ms Miller, who runs an investment company in England, told her audience that with a Brexit deadline looming, there was no indication the UK government knew what to do. She said the impasse was ominous for the fate of Northern Ireland which “does not deserve to be descending into chaos”.
While only about 30 people filled the room at the Newry Arts Centre, Ms Miller said about 25 business and community organisations had been invited but declined to attend for a variety of reasons.
She said a no-deal departure would inevitably lead to the return of border guards and the kind of physical infrastructure “that disfigured the island of Ireland for decades, divided communities, disrupted trade and destroyed lives”.
The panel members included Prof Colin Harvey, lecturer in human rights law at Queen’s University Belfast; Séamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association Northern Ireland; Jane Morrice, former deputy speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Conor Patterson, chief executive of the Newry and Mourne Cooperative and Enterprise Agency.
Mr Leheny said a no-deal Brexit would provoke chaos on the Border, turning it into one of Europe’s largest “car parks” to rival Dover, while Prof Harvey said Northern Ireland was being “systematically and scandalously” locked out of the Brexit debate.
“The consequences of Brexit for this society are disastrous,” he said.