Blair and Ahern call for second referendum and the importance of the Good Friday Agreement

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Former prime minister Tony Blair and former Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern have called for a second Brexit referendum, in a joint editorial emphasising the importance of the Good Friday Agreement.

Writing in The Irish Times, the co-signatories of the 1998 accord which brought peace and power-sharing to Northern Ireland, warn that Brexit is “the most serious threat to the Belfast Agreement since it was created and to the union in our lifetime”.

Excerpts from the article:

“Twenty-one years ago, on Good Friday 1998, we put our signatures to the agreement to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. Our names, as prime minister and taoiseach, on that document were followed by those individuals from across the political spectrum in the UK and Ireland, who had worked so painstakingly towards peace. The Belfast Agreement was a monumental moment for our two countries, and the people in both countries seized the opportunities it presented.

But when we felt the “hand of history upon our shoulder” on April 10th, 1998, it was pushing us to the start of a process, not signalling the end of one. In our eyes, the people of Ireland, North and South, have been signing that agreement every day since. Because it is the everyday actions and interactions of people, businesses, civil society, politicians and governments that enable a lasting peace, not signatures on a piece of paper.

That is why we feel duty-bound, a generation on, to stress to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn the ongoing significance of the Belfast Agreement, to add context to the ongoing Brexit debate and to set out our shared view of what should happen to protect peace and prosperity between now and the newly announced EU “flextension” to October 31st.

First, Theresa May and her colleagues in parliament must learn from previous mistakes and use this extension to encourage calm amid the chaos. Over the next six months it is likely that elements within the Conservative Party will seek to oust her and push for a new prime minister to fight for what they call a “proper Brexit”, the details of which have never been spelled out by Boris Johnson or anyone else. Whatever criticisms people may have of Theresa May, her party should reject such manoeuvring.

There will be local elections, almost certainly now European Elections, and the UK will soon enter its fourth year since the 2016 referendum. Conversations between campaigners, politicians and the public will at times be difficult. But politics is always full of difficult conversations. The important thing is to get to the right place in the end”

Via The Independent / The Irish Times 

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