Tuesday 15 October 2019

Border checks will hit Northern farmers hard, minister tells DUP base

Heather Humphreys. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Heather Humphreys. Picture: Justin Farrelly

Fionnán Sheahan in Cootehill

A Government minister has hit back at DUP leader Arlene Foster, telling businesses and farmers in Northern Ireland they will be "hit hard" by Brexit customs checks.

Jobs Minister Heather Humphreys also warns that Border checks will result in violence.

In the escalating war of words between the DUP and the Government, Ms Humphreys specifically referenced the economic impact on the community in Ms Foster's heartland if British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Border check plans are implemented.

The move comes after the DUP leader launched an attack on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Ms Humphreys pointed to farmers in the North who have their milk processed south of the Border.

"If there is going to be checks, the one person that will pay for those checks is the Northern Ireland farmer.

"He will inevitably get a reduced price for his milk. And the truth is they have no place else to send it. Now, we want their milk and we want to be able to take their milk but there is cost involved in this. Technology is not going to take away the cost," she told the Irish Independent.

The Fine Gael minister from Cavan-Monaghan bluntly warned voters in Ms Foster's Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency of the price to be paid for Border checks.

"When you look at the farmers in Fermanagh and Fivemiletown [in Co Fermanagh], you'll see if this happens and it goes ahead as is being proposed by the UK, there will be serious consequences for the businesses in Northern Ireland and the farmers in Northern Ireland," she said.

Ms Humphreys pointed to the impact north of the Border when the beef protests closed processing plants.

"You had thousands of sheep in Northern Ireland where farmers were unable to get rid of their stock because the plants were closed down here. So the price of lamb immediately dropped in Northern Ireland," she said.

"The primary producers are going to be impacted on in Northern Ireland. It is going to hit them hard and I don't want to see that."

Ms Foster said Mr Varadkar would "go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard Border". She also said Mr Coveney's remarks were "deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent".

Ms Humphreys said she was concerned any infrastructure on a Border would be targeted.

"You can easily slide into violence. The first posts to be attacked when the Troubles started were the customs posts," she said. "We ended up with 30 years of violence and mayhem. These things are symbolic and I would be very concerned that it could start a spiral that is hard to stop."

Irish Independent

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