Northern Ireland news

Chris Patten joins Republic's former ambassador in claiming British government is undermining Good Friday Agreement

Former Tory party chairman Lord Chris Patten

FORMER Conservative party chairman Lord Chris Patten has joined the Republic's one-time ambassador to Britain in claiming UK Government moves to undermine the Withdrawal Agreement will threaten the peace process.

In a joint letter, Lord Patten - who more than 20 years ago oversaw the reform of policing in Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement - and Bobby McDonagh, Dublin's former ambassador to Britain and the EU, claim the UK Internal Market Bill shows little regard for the 1998 peace accord.

"It is particularly astonishing that, among several unconvincing explanations for this illegal behaviour, government ministers have asserted that this demeaning of Britain's international reputation and authority is necessary in order to protect the Northern Ireland peace process – nothing, quite literally, could be further from the truth," the pair wrote.

"The Northern Ireland protocol was agreed, carefully and painstakingly, with the UK's European friends, precisely to minimise damage to the Good Friday Agreement from a Brexit process conceived from the outset without the slightest heed to the complex and sensitive situation in Northern Ireland."

The two political and diplomatic heavyweights argue that it is "disappointing" that the British government seemingly attaches "so little importance to standing by its greatest modern diplomatic success, achieved in close partnership with Ireland".

"We have written this letter jointly as a gentle reminder of the importance of the UK working together with Ireland, not just in friendship but with integrity," the letter to the Financial Times concludes.

Last year, Lord Patten - who is also a former European commissioner and governor of Hong Kong - told The Irish News said he believed British-Irish relations had not been harmed by Brexit but that if the UK left the EU without a deal it would do "real damage".

He also claimed the DUP's approach to Brexit was damaging the union and aiding the cause of Irish nationalism.

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