“It seems we are left with a choice now of a poor agreement or no agreement”

9 Sep 2020

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Speaking as the NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis attempted to justify breaching in an international agreement, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said:

“In any negotiation there is a level of brinkmanship, particularly when we are getting to the end of that process. But the acknowledgement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Westminster government’s Internal Market Bill would actually breach international law, is much more than brinkmanship, it is reckless.

“This action potentially throws a prospect of any trade agreement with anyone into disarray because it breaches two fundamentals required in any negotiation - good faith and trust. The Withdrawal Agreement with the Northern Ireland protocol is an agreement freely negotiated and entered into by the UK government and the EU and is now an international treaty. This current UK government is acting in a manner which is damaging the reputation of the state.

“It is playing with Northern Ireland and its people as if they were pawns in someone else’s chess game. Today in the local media the Secretary of State is arguing that his government’s actions are necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods in Northern Ireland. These words ring hollow given the behaviour of his government over the last number of years, in the context of Brexit. If the Tories truly cared about jobs and business in Northern Ireland they would have sought to negotiate the softest possible Brexit in order to avoid any unnecessary changes.

“But notwithstanding the fact that we live in a globalised world where progress can only be achieved by multilateralism, they have sought to pander to English nationalism at the cost of everything else. It seems we are left with a choice now of a poor agreement or no agreement.

“For the ICTU, which represents the interests of 750,000 workers across the island of Ireland and over 200,000 workers in Northern Ireland, we cannot accept any dilution or diminution of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and we will work with others in Northern Ireland and across Ireland and beyond to protect it.

“We will be making our views very clearly known to both the Irish government and directly to Michel Barnier and his negotiating team when we engage with him later this month.”