Ulster loyalist paramilitaries withdraw support for 1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement

Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups have told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal, Reuters reports.

While the groups pledged “peaceful and democratic” opposition to the deal, such a stark warning increases the pressure on Johnson, his Irish counterpart Micheál Martin and the European Union over Brexit.

Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, ended three decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and mostly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to stay part of the United Kingdom.

The loyalist 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.

“The loyalist groupings are herewith withdrawing their support for the Belfast Agreement,” they said in a March 3rd letter to Johnson from Loyalist Communities Council chairman David Campbell.

Reuters has seen a copy of the letter. A similar letter has been sent to the Irish leader and copies were sent to the European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

The paramilitary groups said they were determined that unionist opposition to the Northern Irish Protocol was peaceful but added a warning.

“Please do not underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue right across the unionist family,” the letter said.

“If you or the EU is not prepared to honour the entirety of the agreement then you will be responsible for the permanent destruction of the agreement,” it said.

Johnson’s office did not immediately comment on the letter but referred Reuters to an earlier statement by Lord David Frost.

The letter was delivered the day after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Sammy Wilson has told the Irish Times and BBC radio that his party will "fight guerrilla warfare" against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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