NORTHERN IRELAND could be used as a “political ping-pong” in the latter stages of Brexit negotiations, the former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, has warned.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on Thursday of last week, Lord Eames asked: “If, in the latter stages of negotiations on how we leave the EU, the Northern Ireland situation and the border issue stand in the way of agreement and compromise is apparently necessary, will the Government’s assurances given to us after the Good Friday agreement be protected?
“Will the situation in Northern Ireland not be used simply as some sort of political ping-pong in those compromise situations?”
Lord Eames, who was Archbishop of Armagh between 1986 and 2006, also asked: “Secondly, many projects during the Northern Ireland peace process have benefited from financial help from the EU. Have the Government given any consideration so far to the vacuum that could occur in that support after Brexit?
He told peers that the Good Friday Agreement — officially the Belfast Agreement, signed in 1998 — created the “basis for a joint community, where equality and democratic sharing through peaceful means became a possibility”.
Lord Eames continued: “We may argue that certain details of the Good Friday Agreement will require consideration as a consequence of Brexit, but the second aspect of this, as I have mentioned, is that the spirit, meaning, and vision of what was contained in the agreement cannot be subjected to that sort of scrutiny.”
Responding for the Government, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland Office, Lord Duncan of Springbank, said: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is an historical document; it is history, and . . . we cannot rewrite that history.”
Brexit and the arts raised. In a separate House of Lords debate on Thursday of last week, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said that the Government should allow “preferential provision for free movement for those who work in music, theatre, and the visual arts” to ensure that “the UK sustains its place as the leading cultural centre of Europe”.
Speaking of Glyndebourne, in Chichester diocese, Dr Warner told peers: “The potential loss of free movement is one of the greatest threats to its capacity to plan long term and to sustain its international status and attraction. . .
“The uncertainty of a Brexit agreement, with the risk of additional costs in administration and the impact of a fall in the value of the pound, add significantly to the potential damage that Glyndebourne faces in its future planning — and it is not alone as an opera company in facing this.”
He concluded: “In the face of the adversity that the arts world is facing, I hope that the Government will commit to the arts as a muse that can continue to inspire us as a nation to be more expansive, inclusive, and creative — and more fully alive.”