Northern Ireland news

Lord David Trimble: Those warning about threats to peace process are 'rattling bones of the IRA'

Lord Trimble said he would support the UK Internal Market Bill if and when it came before the House of Lords

LORD David Trimble has described claims that the British government's UK Internal Markets Bill breaches the Good Friday Agreement as "disgraceful and inaccurate".

The former Stormont first minister told The Irish News that those in the US who were arguing that breaches of the Withdrawal Agreement would destabilise the peace process were "rattling the bones of the IRA".

His remarks came as Donald Trump's special envoy to the north warned against creating a “hard border by accident”.

Mick Mulvaney was the latest US figure to caution the British government about overriding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The Trump administration, State Department and the US Congress would all be aligned in the desire to see the Good Friday Agreement preserved to see the lack of a border maintained,” he said an interview with the Financial Times.

His comments came after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned Britain that it must honour the 1998 accord as it withdraws from the European Union or there would be no separate US trade deal.

Lord Trimble, who was part of a British delegation that last autumn lobbied leading US politicians about a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal, said he would support the UK Internal Market Bill if and when it came before the House of Lords.

He said the Withdrawal Agreement included a clause which enabled the UK to act unilaterally if "it envisages this happening in a situation where there are serious problems or difficulties".

The former Ulster Unionist leader said "there's no shortage of them (problems or difficulties) at the moment".

He said the bill - which the British government has conceded will breach international law - was a response to Michel Barnier's "threat to block food movement into Northern Ireland".

"That's what triggered this legislation and they're (the EU) perfectly capable of it," he said.

"On the British side they are of the view that the EU is acting in bad faith and we're likely to see even more extreme proposals and statements coming out from the EU in the coming weeks."

The Tory peer said his role in November's trip to the US, alongside former lobbyist Shanker Singham, was to "tell people about the Belfast Agreement – what is what and what it is not".

"It's not a matter dealing with economics or trade so we wanted to make it clear that folk in Washington were aware of this distinction," he said of his role in the trip, which was reportedly aimed at helping secure a US-UK trade deal.

Lord Trimble said claims that the UK Internal Market Bill would be a breach of the agreement and destabilise the peace process were "disgraceful and inaccurate" and that those who claimed as much were "rattling the bones of the IRA".

"There's people going around telling lies about the agreement and a lot of those are Irish-Americans," Lord Trimble said.

He claimed Joe Biden was "acting in desperation over the election because the Democrats are on the back foot now”.

The former first minister said Britain would not create a hard border in Ireland.

"If you're worried about that then you should go to the European Union because it's the EU that's insisting on it, we're not," he said .

"The UK has made it absolutely clear that the free movement of people, which has been there since the 1920s, will not be inhibited."

He claimed the "biggest threat to the Belfast Agreement" came from the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Instead of having the procedures of the Belfast Agreement and the assembly it (the EU) is making decisions itself and trying to ram them through the three-man committee established under the protocol," he said.

"That is where the problem will come because the French and the EU want to control the operation of cross-border activities and especially economic cross-border activities."

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