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  1. Politics
16 September 2016updated 07 Sep 2021 10:26am

The man leading the Northern Ireland border inquiry once opposed the Good Friday Agreement

Laurence Robertson is also a long-term Eurosceptic. 

By Julia Rampen

The MP leading the inquiry into the future of the Irish border after Brexit once opposed the Good Friday agreement and wants more border control. 

Laurence Robertson, who chairs the Northern Ireland Affairs select committee, was elected in 1997 as the Conservative MP for Tewkesbury.

The select committee will look into the options for the border with Ireland after Brexit. Announcing the inquiry, Robertson said: “There is a desire on all sides to maintain the existing open border with the Republic.”

Robertson himself, though, is a Eurosceptic and has in the past taken a hardline position on the peace process, although he says he is supportive of all the main parties in Northern Ireland today. 

A BBC article from 2002 noted: “Some of his views were more controversial, such as his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.”

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On 26 June 1997, Robertson said: “On the peace process, I urge that no time or finance be wasted on going down roads that have been shown to have failed in the past. 

“We cannot expect much good will from the men of violence; we should not waste too much time seeking it.”

In 2001, he was still critical of the peace process, describing the agreement as “slightly flawed”. 

He told The Staggers: “I wasn’t against the “peace process” but against certain elements of the Belfast Agreement, such as the release of terrorists from prison in advance of weapons being surrendered, and so on.

“Today, I am supportive of the institutions in Northern Ireland and work to try to help ensure that they survive and thrive. For example, twelve months ago, when they were on the verge of collapse, I visited the leaders of the five main parties in NI to encourage them to keep talking and to come together.”

More than 55 per cent of voters in Northern Ireland wanted to remain in the EU, which has formed a backdrop to the peace process. 

Robertson, by contrast, has long demanded a referendum on membership of the EU.

Setting out his position, he made it clear he was in favour of more border control. He wrote to constituents: “A country’s ability to control its borders is a fundamental and for this to not fall fully into their remit is troubling. If we left the EU we would gain the ability to control our borders again.”

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