There is bipartisan support in Washington for Irish position on the Border
Issue to be raised at House foreign-affairs committee hearing on implications of Brexit
As bipartisan members of the Congress of the United States, as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are deeply committed to preserving the peace and stability achieved for the six counties of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement.
As such, we have been closely monitoring the Brexit process to ensure this important progress is protected and preserved. At this time, we are deeply concerned by the United Kingdom’s not taking the necessary steps to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The United States played a pivotal role during the peace process that produced the Good Friday Agreement – one of the greatest diplomatic success stories of the 20th century. Successive U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have viewed the agreement as the best framework for securing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
Any attempt to reestablish a hard border would be a mistake, endangering one of the most transformative gains of the peace process. The Good Friday Agreement has facilitated normalization, reconciliation, and economic opportunity on the island of Ireland. Today, people travel freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to work, shop, and visit family and friends. Many cannot even tell where the border stands. Traveling along the same road, one can cross the border several times. A return to the days of checkpoints, visas or customs patrols along the 320 mile border with its 300 crossings would be a step in the wrong direction.
This week the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on the implications of Brexit. As two members of the committee, we will be addressing the issues faced by the people on the island of Ireland. The potential return to a hard border is sparking fears of renewed political violence. We believe the United Kingdom must come to an agreement on a written declaration outlining its plans to avoid a hard border before entering “Phase 2” of the Brexit negotiations, for the good of the ongoing peace process on the island.
This is a highly polarized time politically on Capitol Hill. There are many things that divide Democrats and Republicans. But when it comes to a commitment to peace in Ireland, members of both parties stand completely united. We cannot allow the destabilization of Northern Ireland to become an unintended consequence of Brexit.
Brendan F. Boyle is a Democratic member of the US Congress and Brian Fitzpatrick is a Republican member.