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Bertie Ahern says Good Friday Agreement can help safeguard Anglo-Irish relations

Bertie Ahern said Britain's decision to leave the EU was 'short-sighted'. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

FORMER taoiseach Bertie Ahern believes strand three of the Good Friday Agreement provides a "ready-made safe-net" that can help insulate Irish-British relations from the negative impact of Brexit.

The former Fianna Fáil leader was speaking in Dublin last night as he launched 'From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland', a new book by Donnacha Ó Beacháin, an associate professor at Dublin City University's school of law and government.

Mr Ahern said relations between the north and south of Ireland, between Ireland and Britain, and between Britain and the EU were "entering a critical phase".

Describing the UK's decision to leave the EU as "short-sighted", he said there was an obligation to future generations not to let Brexit "undermine the foundations of a hard won peace".

He said a hard border would be "totally regressive" and that customs posts "would likely become targets for dissidents".

"Furthermore, a hard Brexit will be an obstacle to the cross-border economic cooperation that is profoundly benefiting both states on this island – it will also damage trade and investment, north and south," he said.

The former taoiseach said Brexit had introduced "great uncertainty into Anglo-Irish relations" and that it was impossible to quantify the economic and political damage it would cause Ireland.

However, he said strand three of the 1998 peace accord, which put an emphasis on east-west relations, provided a framework that could help safeguard relations between Ireland and Britain.

"Although in all honesty, I don't think any of us involved in the negotiations in April 1998 foresaw Brexit coming at us a long way down the tracks, strand three actually provides us with a ready-made safe-net that can help insulate Irish-British relationships from the worst of ravages of the UK leaving the European Union," he said.

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