ECJ policy endangers Irish peace fund: Hain
The former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Lord Peter Hain, has called on the government to “soften” its approach to “taking the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)”.
Hain claimed leaving the court’s jurisdiction could result in Northern Ireland losing millions of pounds of peace funding.
The ECJ oversees reconciliation grants to the troubled province of around £240 million through funding known as Peace IV, which runs until 2020, from the European Regional Development Fund.
In the latest UK position paper on the Brexit process, London pledged its commitment to maintaining the “implementation of the Peace IV programme”.
South African-born Hain said the government should reconsider its “dogmatic insistence” on leaving the ECJ.
Hain released a statement saying: “The EU’s Peace programme has made a massive contribution to helping communities across Northern Ireland put the past behind them and build a brighter, more cohesive future.
“[EU negotiator] Michel Barnier has been clear that he values the EU’s work on the peace process and wants to see it continued.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility for the government to look a gift horse in the mouth and give that funding up because of [its] obsession with the ECJ,” the former anti-Apartheid campaigner said.
“Ministers themselves say the UK should remain part of the Peace programme. But they have not faced up to the reality that this cannot be squared with their policy of leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
“The government needs to bow to reality and accept that this programme will require the softening of its unnecessary red line on judicial sovereignty.”
Hain’s argument was echoed by a pro-EU pressure group.
Open Britain, which morphed from the Stronger In campaign before the 2016 referendum campaign and now argues against a hard Brexit, says the EU funding is in jeopardy.
The EU programme, which aims to boost “cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland” and “economic and social stability”, applies to the province and the six border counties in the Republic of Ireland.
Projects funded by the programme include the Victims and Survivors Service, which has so far received £11.4 million to support up to 17,650 victims of the civil conflict that ignited at the beginning of the 1970s.
Northern Ireland’s municipal councils have also been given almost £30 million to “promote positive relations between people from different communities and backgrounds”.
Peter Hain in 2009. Picture credit: Wikimedia