The former British Prime Minster has warned that a return to a hard border in Ireland would be a “disaster”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that the Good Friday Agreement may need to be changed in order to accommodate Brexit.
Mr Blair has been addressing a meeting of the European People’s Party in Druid’s Glen this morning.
He warned that a hard border in Ireland would be a “disaster” warning that all sides in the upcoming Brexit negotiations “must do all they can to avoid it.”
“The Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was formulated on the assumption that both countries were part of the EU,” he said. “This was not only for economic but also for political reasons, to take account particularly of nationalist aspirations.
“Some of the language will therefore require amendment because of Brexit.
“Again, with goodwill, including from our European partners, this should be achievable with the minimum of difficulty.”
He said the best chance of limiting the potential damage Brexit poses to the peace process would be for Britain and Ireland to agree a way forward on the border issue.
“It is in the interests of us all, including our European partners, for this to happen,” he said.
On his way out of the meeting he told reporters that while the language of the agreement may need to amended it's substance should remain the same:
Yesterday, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier warned that while “Irish interests will be the Union’s interests” in the talks - some form of border will have to exist in Ireland.
Speaking in Wicklow this afternoon, Mr Blair said there is broad political agreement that the consequences of Brexit on the border and the relationship between Ireland and the UK should be “minimised as a far as possible.
“There has never been a situation where the UK, including Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, had a different status in respect of Europe,” he said “We have either both been out or both been in.”
He called called for special arrangements to be put in place to ensure the Common travel Area between the UK and the Republic is retained.
“The Common Travel Area has meant ease of going back and forth across the border, vital for work and family connection has been in place for almost 100 years,” he said. “And the absence of customs controls – both countries being in the Single Market and Customs Union – have meant a huge boost to UK-Irish trade.”
“Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening.
“However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support.”
Earlier the former Labour leader again insisted that British voters should be given the opportunity to change their minds on Brexit once the final terms of the agreement are known – but admitted the “overwhelming likelihood” is that Brexit will happen.
On the BBC this Morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan warned that Brexit is a “proper mess” – adding that the divorce is one of the greatest challenges facing Ireland since independence.
"I say no to border posts, I say no to fences, I say no to hard borders,” he said. “I believe that we have to work with the EU to ensure that the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains."
Mr Barnier is due to address the EPP meeting in Druids Glen at midday.