Canada can make it clear to Britain: No trade deal while Good Friday Agreement is under threat

While Ireland and the world struggles to deal with the impact of COVID-19, a secondary drama with long-lasting implications is playing out between Britain and the EU. In the pursuit of leverage in Brexit negotiations, the British government is prepared to use Ireland, and the Good Friday Agreement, as collateral damage in a game of brinkmanship.

Last week, I wrote to the leaders of federal parties in Canada seeking support to protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent a hard border being imposed on the island of Ireland.

The people of the North of Ireland voted against Brexit, recognizing its threat to progress and stability. But Westminster ignored the will of these voters, imposed Brexit and threatened a hard border across Ireland.

The EU and Westminster agonisingly negotiated a legally binding Withdrawal Agreement that prevented a return of a hard border. 

Both sides moved on to trade deal negotiations. The EU and the British government must strike a deal soon, or the trading relationship will default to World Trade Organisations rules and tariffs.

The threat of a hard border has remerged. 

In September the British government unveiled the Internal Market Bill. Legislation that they  acknowledge would breach the Withdrawal Agreement and so break international law. 

The Bill and British Government approach threatens to undermine Good Friday Agreement. 

There was widespread condemnation of the legislation from Ireland and the wider international community.

The Internal Market Bill is a unilateral move by the British government, without consultation or support of the majority of parties in the North or the Irish Government.

The move was an act of bad faith in the negotiations with the EU; basically, an ultimatum of “you can agree to want we want, or we will do it regardless”. 

The North of Ireland’s parliament opposes the British government’s approach, in conjunction with the Irish government and the EU.

In a sign of unprecedented solidarity, the 27 EU member states and the US Congress have made clear declarations: There will be no trade agreement if the British government’s continues with their course of action and the Good Friday Agreement is undermined. 

I now ask Canada to join with the EU and US congress and stand in solidarity with Ireland our peace agreements 

Canada now has the opportunity to make it clear to the British government that there can be no trade agreement with Canada if their actions breech International Law, undermine the Good Friday Agreement or results in a hard border across Ireland.

Successive Canadian governments invested in our peace and prosperity. The peace and progress we now enjoy that was made possible by the work of several prominent Canadians. For that we thank you

Now is the time for Canada to again stand in solidarity with Ireland and our peace agreements. Now is the time to stand up for international law, peace and progress.

Mary Lou McDonald is the leader of Sinn Féin the largest political party across Ireland. 
Published in the Toronto Star, Thursday, October 29, 2020