- A hard border in Ireland would be a “disaster” putting lives at risk, Irish MP warns Theresa May.
- Neale Richmond of ruling Fine Gael party says security services would become a target for terrorists.
- Ireland and EU still waiting on UK government to propose solution to hard border question in Brexit talks.
LONDON – The return of a hard border to Northern Ireland would jeopardise the peace process and make security forces patrolling the border a potential terrorist target, the UK government has been warned.
Theresa May has insisted that the UK has no intention of creating a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic but has yet to offer a solution that both the Irish government and EU believes will prevent this from happening.
With the Irish government now threatening to veto the progress of Brexit negotiations until a solution is found, May has now been warned of the threat to peace a hard border would create.
Neale Richmond of Varadkar’s Fine Gael party told The Times that increased border checks would not only have adverse economic impacts but would undermine the peace process achieved in the Good Friday Agreement.
“A hard border would be a disaster. Any customs posts .. and any member of the army or security forces patrolling that border would be a target for dissident paramilitaries,” Richmond said.
“The Irish and British governments are co-guarantors of the peace process… One of the main achievements of the Good Friday agreement was an open border. It has fostered much closer integration between the north and south.”
On the Irish government’s threat to delay Brexit talks if the border issue isn’t fully addressed, Richmond added: “That is the first phase of the Brexit talks. They agreed to that. I don’t see how they can have any objections now to that.”
Long-serving police officers from both Ireland and Northern Ireland have warned about the threats posed by the return of a hard border triggered by a hard Brexit. Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable, Neil Hamilton, described the prospect as a “serious challenge” to forces on both sides of the border.
The UK government has insisted that the fate of the Irish border cannot be finalised until talks between Britain and the EU move onto future trade relations.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox claimed over the weekend that the UK government “can’t come to a final answer to the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state.”
The EU will not allow talks to move onto trade until “sufficient progress” is made on citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlement, and the Irish border. This is a sequencing arrangement that the UK signed up to.
Hard Brexit could “unpick” nearly 150 cross-border activities
A secret study conducted by May’s government has identified 142 cross-border activities on the island of Ireland that would be disrupted by increased border checks as a result of Brexit,the Guardian reports.
The UK government’s policy of removing the whole of the UK from both the single market and customs union threatens to “unpick” a host of crucial activities, according to Ulster University’s Eoin Magennis.
These include the provision of heart surgery in Dublin to children from Northern Ireland, plus cancer treatment in Derry for people from Ireland, because health specialists and ambulances can move freely across the border.
“It’s an important list because it shows the depth of cooperation that people aren’t aware of that has developed since 1999-2000 and it’s going to be hard to unpick all of that,” Magennis, a senior economist, said.
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