UK FOREIGN Secretary Dominic Raab has come under fire after an old clip resurfaced of him admitting he has not read the Good Friday Agreement.
The clip was taken in January 2019, before Mr Raab was the Foreign Secretary but after he had served as the Brexit Secretary, and was responsible for negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
In the video, Mr Raab is giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and is questioned as to whether he has read the Good Friday Agreement, which brought a tentative peace to Northern Ireland and pledged no return to a hard border.
Mr Raab replies that he hasn't "sat down and started at the beginning and gone through it. But of course at various points of the negotiations when issues have been raised, it has been an important opportunity to delve into the different aspects very carefully.
"It's not like a novel, [where] you sit down and say 'do you know what, over the holidays, this is a cracking read'."
The GFA, also known as the Belfast Agreement, is 35 pages long.
Mr Raab was criticised for his answer at the time, but over a year later the clip has resurfaced as the UK Government announced it planned to "break international law" by attempting to override the Withdrawal Agreement which had been negotiated, signed and voted into law last year.
The new legislation could undermine parts of the withdrawal agreement and give greater priority to seamless trade between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Some of the clauses will also override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed last year, in a move that could pave the way for a return to a hard border.
The clip has since gone viral once again after being re-shared by Emma De Souza, a citizens rights campaigner from County Derry who made history earlier this year when her legal action made the UK Government make changes to immigration laws allowing people from Northern Ireland to be officially viewed as British, Irish or both.
Ms DeSouza had originally been told she must denounce her British citizenship in order to be viewed as Irish-- which goes against the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“May I ask you. Have you read the Good Friday Agreement?” To which Dominic Raab replied: “Well, I haven’t sat down, and started from the beginning and gone through it.”pic.twitter.com/W6F7DfRGCV
— Emma DeSouza (@EmmandJDeSouza) September 16, 2020
The clip drew thousands of likes and comments from people who were angered that the MP had not read the Agreement, with one woman, Rachel Cadden, writing:
"I was 10 and living in Enniskillen when the GFA was signed. We as a p7 class were all gicen a copy and read the agreement together as a class.
"This was our future. Raab is a disgrace."
English comedian and presenter Sue Perkins shared Ms DeSouza's clip, angrily writing "Dominic Raab hasn't even read the Good Friday Agreement. His excuse? 'It's not a novel.' No. It's not even a novella. It's 35 pages. More of a short story, really.
"Except it's not a story - it's real, with real world consequences that affect lives. Oh, and it's HIS JOB."
Dominic Raab hasn’t even read the Good Friday Agreement. His excuse? ‘It’s not a novel’. No. It’s not even a novella. It’s 35 pages. More of a short story, really. Except it’s not a story - it’s real, with real world consequences that affect lives.
Oh, and it’s HIS JOB. https://t.co/MGWyouLbtj
— Sue Perkins (@sueperkins) September 17, 2020
Irish author Naoise Dolan responded, "Good Friday is 12,000 words. For context, Roald Dahl's Matilda is 40,000."
And comedian and actress Aisling Bea wrote:
"Someone was kind enough to sum up the Good Friday Agreement into 35 pages & now what's he waiting for?
"The quicker version? Maybe a cheeky Twitter thread of it with some helpful GIFs so you don't lose interest?"
When the clip first surfaced in January 2019, Dominic Raab responded to a woman who had shared the video of the MP admitting he had not fully read the Agreement calling it "dishonest".
"You know from the clip that you posted that I read and referenced the Good Friday Agreement at every point when a relevant issue arose in the negotiations," he wrote.
The clip is now well over a year old, despite going viral again recently, and Mr Raab is now serving as the UK's Foreign Secretary.
He has recently been in the United States speaking to multiple high-profile politicians to assure the UK's "stalwart commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement".
Welcome discussion with @SpeakerPelosi and @RepRichardNeal on Brexit and UK’s stalwart commitment to Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Also spoke about our shared commitment and concern about China's actions in Hong Kong & Xinjiang. pic.twitter.com/MAQq4lqM1w
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) September 16, 2020