Ireland the ‘Achilles heel’ of Brexit, says former UK government minister

Brexit is ‘imploding’ and a second referendum is likely, according to Lord Adonis

Lord Andrew Adonis (centre) pictured with Stephen Donnelly and Darragh O’Brien of Fianna Fáil,  former Conservative deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg in Dublin last March. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Lord Andrew Adonis (centre) pictured with Stephen Donnelly and Darragh O’Brien of Fianna Fáil, former Conservative deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg in Dublin last March. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

Ireland is the “Achilles heel” of Brexit, a leading campaigner for a second Brexit referendum in the UK has said, urging the Irish Government to “stand by the Good Friday Agreement”.

Lord Andrew Adonis, a former British Government minister and a leader of the “People’s Vote” campaign, says if the British Government does not stand by the agreement, that is “all the more reason” for the Irish Government to do so.

“Brexit is essentially imploding. You can’t have the benefits of the EU whilst being outside. The fundamental problem that Theresa May has is that she hasn’t been able to find a way of maintaining frictionless and tariff free trade without staying in the single market and customs union,” he said, in an interview with The Irish Times.

“It’s also becoming increasingly clear that Ireland is the Achilles heel of Brexit because it’s impossible to square Northern Ireland leaving the customs union and the single market with the Good Friday Agreement, and maintaining the free flow of people and good across the border,” Lord Adonis said.

“And every time a new dimension of Brexit is revealed, the Irish problem becomes bigger.”

He said that a second referendum is now likely to happen, and it is likely that it will result in Brexit being overturned.

The “crystallising moment” he said, will come if there is no agreement at the forthcoming European summits. And if there is an agreement, it is likely to be rejected by the British parliament. That, he said, will open the door to a second referendum.

There “simply won’t be a majority for anything else other than giving the issue back to the British people.”

Moral obligation

Younger voters, he said, will vote in “unprecedented numbers” against Brexit.

Lord Adonis said there is cross party support in Westminster for standing by the Good Friday Agreement.

“In my view, and in the view of most politicians in Westminster, the interests of Britain and Ireland are indissoluble in respect of the Irish border,” he said.

“We have a moral obligation - and a treaty obligation - to ensure that nothing is done to turn the clock back on the enormous progress in promoting peace and progress.”

What he finds “deeply alarming” about Mrs May, he says, is that she identifies different interests between Britain and Ireland.

“She is following the DUP agenda to have a border, as hard as possible - but not to take any responsibility for it, rather to blame Brexit and the British government.”

“That’s not a matter of opinion. They have voted consistently for the hardest Brexit . . . including against a customs union . . . the DUP is not in the market for soft Brexit.

“My advice to the Irish Government is to stand by the Good Friday Agreement without any qualification - which is the same advice that I’m giving constantly to the British government.”

Arlene Foster’s comments that the Belfast Agreement could be changed to accommodate Brexit are “deeply alarming”, Lord Adonis said.

“It should be the other way around - there should be changes in Brexit to accommodate the Good Friday Agreement.

“What she was saying that Brexit comes first and the Good Friday Agreement comes second. Well, almost everyone in Westminster besides the extreme right of the Conservative Party believes that the GFA should come first, and Brexit second,” he said.