Brexit fallout: Northern Irish loyalist paramilitaries withdraw support for 1998 peace deal - report

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  • Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organisations have withdrawn support for the 1998 peace deal.
  • The move comes as Brexit takes effect the groups feel marginalised.
  • It adds enormous pressure of British PM Boris Johnson.

Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organisations told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

An umbrella body representing the outlawed groups said in a letter that the unionist opposition to the Northern Irish Protocol - part of the Brexit divorce deal - should remain "peaceful and democratic".

READ | Brexit becomes reality as UK quits EU single market

Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, largely ended three decades of violence between nationalists fighting for Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland, and loyalists who want it to stay in the UK.

The paramilitaries including the Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association and Red Hand Commando said they were concerned about the disruption to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland due to the Brexit deal.

"We are concerned about the disruption to trade and commerce between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that is occurring," said the letter, written by David Campbell, chair of the Loyalist Communities Council.

Stark warning

But, they said, their core disagreement was more fundamental: that Britain, Ireland and the EU had in the Northern Irish Protocol breached their commitments to the 1998 peace deal and the two communities.

"Please do not under-estimate the strength of feeling on this issue right across the unionist family," the letter said.

Such a stark warning - albeit with promises not to trigger violence immediately - dramatically increases the pressure on Johnson, his Irish counterpart Micheál Martin and the EU over Brexit.

The loyalist groups abandoned the armed struggle in 1998 and residual violence since the accord has largely been carried out by dissident nationalist groups who opposed the peace deal.

Ever since Brexit proper on 1 January 2020, Northern Ireland has had problems importing a range of goods from Britain - which unionists, or loyalists, says divides up the UK and so is unacceptable.

The EU promised legal action on Wednesday after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated the terms of Britain's divorce deal.

Joe Biden, while campaigning in the presidential election in 2020, bluntly warned the UK that it must honour Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement as it withdrew from the EU or there would be no separate US trade deal.

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