Brexit: SNP’s commitment to Good Friday Agreement to be tested – Brian Wilson

After SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accuses the Prime Minister of “ripping up the Good Friday Agreement”, Brian Wilson suggests it is the SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to peace in Northern Ireland that will be tested in the coming weeks.

Ian Blackford accused Theresa May of ripping up the Good Friday Agreement (PIcture: Mark Duffy/AFP/Getty)

Extravagance of language often comes cheap but there are circumstances in which even the most ardent attention-seeker should think twice about what they say and where they say it.

Anything to do with the maintenance of peace in Ireland comes into that category as Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Parliamentary leader, might usefully reflect upon.

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In the midst of a generally unpleasant harangue, Mr Blackford accused the Prime Minister of “ripping up the Good Friday Agreement”. He was assailed from all sides for irresponsibility, and rightly so.

There are many things Theresa May can be accused of but “ripping up the Good Friday Agreement” is not one of them. On the contrary, commitment to an open border within Ireland has contributed to her difficulties.

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In announcing the attempt at renegotiation, she repeated that commitment. More than likely, she will come back with much the same deal – including a backstop, the definition of which is that it guarantees free movement within Ireland while retaining a customs union between the whole UK and EU until a replacement trade deal is concluded.

While hard-line Brexiteers and DUP don’t like this, I have never understood why it is so abhorrent to opposition parties who are (a) opposed to a border within Ireland and (b) want a Customs Union. Plus, of course, all Irish parties apart from the DUP support the backstop.

Soon, it might not be Mrs May’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement that will be tested but Mr Blackford’s, and Jeremy Corbyn’s, and Vince Cable’s. If it finally comes down to “deal” (including backstop) or “no deal” (with no backstop), which way will each jump?

It should not be a hard question to answer – now.