Politics Hilary Clinton warns Theresa May that Brexit could destroy the Irish peace deal

  • Published:

Clinton said reinstating a hard Irish border would represent an 'enormous setback' and a return to the 'bad old days' when communities were set apart.

Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the 18th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea, October 18, 2017. Yonhap via REUTERS play

Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the 18th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea, October 18, 2017. Yonhap via REUTERS

24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!
  • Hillary Clinton has warned Theresa May's that Brexit Brexit to "undermine" the Good Friday.
  • "The hand of history will be heavy and unforgiving" if the UK government oversees the return of a hard Irish border, the former US presidential candidate said.
  • The historic peace deal was struck 20 years ago today.
  • The most significant problem May has yet to resolve in Brexit negotiations is the Irish border issue.
  • Labour MP Barry Gardiner and Brexit secretary David Davis were both accused of making inflammatory comments about the Irish border issue on Monday.


LONDON — Hillary Clinton has warned that "the hand of history will be heavy and unforgiving" if Theresa May's government allows Brexit to "undermine" the Good Friday Agreement as both Labour and the Conservatives were accused of souring tensions with the Irish government.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the 1998 peace deal, the former US secretary of state and presidential candidate — whose husband Bill helped broker the agreement — said reinstating a hard Irish border would represent an "enormous setback" and a return to the "bad old days" when communities were set apart.

The most significant problem May has yet to resolve in exit negotiations is the Irish border issue. Peace between north and south Ireland — which is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement — could be endangered if a border emerged between the two countries once Northern Ireland leaves the EU along with the rest of the UK.

The subject became live on Monday, when frontbench Labour MP Barry Gardiner was reported to have claimed the Irish border issue was being "played up" for economic reasons and called the Good Friday Agreement a "shibboleth."

His comments were particularly inflammatory because he also said British military border posts wouldn't necessarily "bring back paramilitary activity."

Northern Irish police disagree: In December, Northern Ireland's deputy police chief Drew Harris said paramilitary activity remained a major concern.

He told members of the Brexit Select Committee that "dissident groups see [the border] as an area which is contentious, which will give them a further rallying call to try and engender support.

"Infrastructure on the border – that would be an obvious place for dissident groups to rally around and also to attack. It is highly foreseeable that dissident groups would seek to take action and that would include [against] buildings," he said.

Brexit secretary David Davis, meanwhile, reportedly made inflammatory comments at a conference when he claimed that Irish Taoiseach Varadkar had allowed Sinn Fein — the Republican party which supports a unified and independent Ireland — to play "a strong political role" in Brexit and made it harder to resolve the border impasse.

Writing for the Guardian, Clinton said: "As the Brexit debate rages on, I continue to believe in the value of the European Union, and of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. But no matter the outcome of these discussions, we cannot allow Brexit to undermine the peace that people voted, fought and even died for."

She added: "If short-term interests take precedence over solving the long-term challenges that still exist in Northern Ireland, then it is clear that the hand of history will be both heavy and unforgiving."