What I told the Inquiry about the Referendum and Peace in Northern Ireland / by Kate Hammer

1.1.  Even posing the question undermines settled international peace. Any question that would materially change the nation’s ability to continue to fulfill the obligations set forth in an international peace treaty (the Belfast Agreement) is not appropriate for a referendum. The EU Referendum Question falls into this category. 

1.1.1.      The Belfast Agreement is registered with the United Nations. That registry is the legacy of the League of Nations created to provide transparency in international affairs in the interest of peace. 

1.1.2.      The 499-kilometre soft border that exists between Northern Ireland and Eire exists in the context of the EU Customs Union. If the UK leaves the EU Customs Union, the border will require goods to be examined. Such a border would utterly undermine the harmony achieved by the people of North and South, who can work, shop and socialise easily. In changing the border, the United Kingdom dramatically changes the peaceful co-existence achieved after decades and decades of violence. 

1.1.3.      In failing to anticipate the jeopardy into which the settled peace might be thrown, Parliament has failed to act in the entire nation’s interest. 

1.2.  The question asked contained within it implications of a grave and lasting nature, that neither the Act’s architects, nor the campaigns addressed. The Referendum had the effect of asking voters to determine: 

1.2.1.      Do you consent to your nation repudiating its treaties with other nations, and accept any ramifications that may have on the stability or security of the UK?

1.2.2.      Do you consent to removing the firm basis of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 which settled peace in Northern Ireland within the common framework of the EU?

1.2.3.      Do you consent to jeopardising the the Northern Irish peace settlement, bearing in mind that the Belfast Agreement ratified by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland has been registered with the United Nations, a practice whose conception dates back to the League of Nations? 

1.2.4.      Do you consent to the weakening or dissolution of the United Kingdom, into constituent nations choosing their own path within or beyond the EU?

1.3.  Furthermore, the prospect of a Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom that is no longer a member of the EU has an effect Parliament and the Regulator failed to anticipate: creating two tiers of UK citizenship for those born in the United Kingdom. Under the Belfast Agreement, those born in Northern Ireland are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport; after a British exit from the EU, Northern Irish-born UK citizens will be able to elect a passport granting EU citizenship, whereas peers born in Wales, England and (if it remains) Scotland will not enjoy this privilege. Ergo, the electorate was being asked to decide, also: 

1.3.1.      Do you endorse the de facto creation of a two-tier citizenship system for UK citizens born (not naturalised) in the United Kingdom?

1.4.  It may be the case that Parliament is sovereign, but after the wars of the 20th Century, it is difficult to imagine any Parliament openly advocating for peace treaty repudiation, the dissolution of the United Kingdom or the creation of a two-tiered system of citizenship. Yet all these possibilities are opened up by the implications of the Referendum question.

1.5.  That the question could even be asked without first re-negotiating the Belfast Agreement beggars belief.

 

(c) 2016. Kate Hammer. All rights reserved. 

Protest sign. Published BBC 10 October 2016

Protest sign. Published BBC 10 October 2016