Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Maintaining an open Irish land border is essential' - former top diplomat warns

European (right) and Union flags are displayed outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo credit should read: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire
European (right) and Union flags are displayed outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo credit should read: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

Nick Lester and Trevor Mason

Stability in Northern Ireland and closer UK-Irish relations must not become "collateral damage" of Brexit, a former top diplomat has warned.

Independent crossbench peer Lord Jay of Ewelme also backed calls against the Government using the issue of the border between the Republic and Ulster "as a pawn" in divorce talks with Brussels.

Lord Jay, who served as British ambassador in Paris and is a former head of the diplomatic service, told peers the potential implications of Brexit for Ireland, both north and south, were "far too serious for game-playing".

The peer made his comments during a debate on a report by the House of Lords EU Committee, entitled Brexit: UK-Irish Relations.

The UK's only European land border is between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the committee said Brexit was a "huge challenge" for Ireland.

The report called for continuation of the open land border between the UK and Ireland and ease of movement across the sea boundary between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Opening the debate, committee member Lord Jay pointed to its findings that "strengthened checks for UK and Irish citizens at the sea boundary between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be politically divisive and inherently undesirable".

He said: "Maintaining an open Irish land border is essential.

"Any re-imposition of border controls or restriction on the movement of goods would be fraught with danger, but moving the border to the Irish Sea is not a price worth paying."

Highlighting recent warnings against the Irish border being used "as a pawn to press the EU into agreeing a broader trade deal", Lord Jay added: "The potential implications of Brexit for Ireland, north and south, are far too serious for game-playing."

He went on: "Closer UK-Irish relations and stability in Northern Ireland need not and must not become collateral damage of Brexit.

"In an era of blossoming bilateral relationships, after long years of mistrust and misunderstanding, the Government must be sensitive to the implications of its actions for the people and communities of Ireland, north and south.

"Anything less would diminish the efforts of all those people who have worked so long and so hard for peace across these islands."

Press Association

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business