(Bloomberg) -- Northern Irish loyalists vowed to resist what they see as the economic reunification of Ireland implicit in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, warning of civil disobedience on the streets of Belfast that risks tipping over into violence.
In London on Tuesday, Parliament will vote on the general principles of Johnson’s accord with the European Union, which binds Northern Ireland tightly to the bloc to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
“You are going to have an organic explosion of anger” if Johnson’s deal is passed, Jamie Bryson, who has emerged as a de-facto spokesman for loyalists, said in an interview. “We are going to have a difficult position to prevent loyalists taking to the streets and we would hope that would be peaceful. But you are asking people to go along with surrendering their country -- it is not going to happen. It’s a very fluid situation and it wouldn’t take much to spark it off.”
The Democratic Unionist Party is opposed to the deal, suggesting it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the union. The U.K. effectively split Ireland in 1921 to placate a largely Protestant, unionist majority in the north in the face of increasingly demands from the Catholic-dominated south for independence from Britain.
“If this goes ahead we are into an economic United Ireland, the whole basis of the Union is gone, it’s weakened,” Bryson said. “It is going to have to be resisted.”
Still, other forces in unionism cautioned against inflaming the situation. The Orange Order, which celebrates Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K., said it’s not the time for widespread protest which could paralyze the region, Reuters reported.
“There is a feeling people need to do something but I would be encouraging people that it isn’t a case for street protest at this time,” Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson told Reuters.
Bryson said all sides want to avoid a return to violence.
“There’s a danger if you get a massive amount of people on the streets,” he said. “Violence would be foolish but I can’t predict the future.”
Meanwhile, in Dublin, Sinn Fein suggested a vote on a uniting Ireland could take place sooner rather than later. The U.K. government can only call a unification referendum when it considers it likely a vote would be carried.
“Germany was reunified in in one year,” Michelle O’Neill, leader of the party’s Northern Irish wing, said in a speech on Tuesday. “In less than one year, and that’s something for everybody to think about. Sometimes events can over take you.”
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