Sunday 22 September 2019

Border could be used as 'back door' by immigrants after Brexit, Ahern warns

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Pic: Marc O'Sullivan
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Pic: Marc O'Sullivan

Colm Kelpie

The Border could become a "back door" for immigration into the UK post-Brexit which the British government will ultimately move to deal with, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has warned.

Mr Ahern signalled London could look to harden the Border in the coming years, even after the UK's EU withdrawal is completed.

With immigration such a big issue in the Brexit campaign and referendum, Britain will, in the years to come, start to look much more closely at the Border "when they see the abuses that will be happening", he said.

"You're going to get people [coming] in here, hopefully not in huge numbers, and they will use it as a back door from other places," Mr Ahern told a conference organised by Dublin City University's Brexit Institute.

"Let's be honest about it. Wouldn't you be an awful eejit if you were trying to get into the EU and you didn't?"

He said Britain would then start to take note that there were people crossing the Border that were not British or Irish.

He said that in the wake of the referendum decision, there had been speculation and fears that the Border couldn't remain open because if it did, people could fly into Dublin and simply travel across the Border into Northern Ireland.

He said the common travel area, and the need for that to continue, "saved us on this".

But Mr Ahern added that we would be "naïve to think people won't come back to try and tighten down that decision".

The former Taoiseach called on the UK to remain in the customs union.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a business dinner in Dublin last night that Ireland had an ally in Scotland on virtually all aspects of Brexit.

She said the fact that the UK government is committed to leaving the EU means that Scotland - like Ireland, and like Northern Ireland - now faces a "dilemma which is not of our choosing".

"Leaving the single market will be deeply damaging for Scotland's businesses, for our universities, for trade and for jobs."

She said the difficulty of attempting to find solutions outside the single market was becoming clearer by the month.

"On virtually every issue of substance relating to Brexit, the Irish Government - and the Irish business community as a whole - has an ally in Scotland," Ms Sturgeon said.

"Like you, we didn't want Brexit.

"Like you, we support single market and customs union membership. And like you, we know that Ireland's circumstances require particular attention, and we will argue strongly for an open Border.

"We believe that those positions are in the best interests of Scotland, of Ireland, and of everybody on these islands."

Ms Sturgeon earlier met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and they agreed on the importance of the UK remaining in the single market and customs union after Brexit.

Irish Independent

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