Thursday 14 December 2017

Open border crucial to save Irish peace process, warns Lord Hain

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Sam Lister and Alan O'Keeffe

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has launched a campaign against Brexit, warning the peace process could unravel if a hard border is reintroduced.

The former UK Labour cabinet minister is demanding that changes be made to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, including adding clauses allowing the UK to remain part of the single market and Northern Ireland's Border with the Republic to stay open.

Mr Hain attacked British Prime Minister Theresa May for failing to represent the 48pc who voted in favour of Remain.

In a rare move, Ms May attended the Lords' session yesterday afternoon to listen to Mr Hain's comments with a group of ministers and MPs in tow.

Mr Hain warned the peace process could unravel under Brexit and has tabled an amendment, backed by another former holder of the post and fellow Lord, Paul Murphy, calling for the Border to remain open.

"A 'one nation Brexit' would also mean guaranteeing a completely open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic - no security checks, no controls, physical or electronic," he said.

"Otherwise I believe the peace process could unravel, as indeed Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach, and so important to the success of that process, has said."

Mr Hain pushed for a vote on keeping Britain in the single market, warning that severing ties with its biggest trade market will have a "devastating" impact on its economy.

Read more: Good Friday deal was a miracle: it must be protected

"Cutting us off from our biggest market, where nearly half our trade is done, will have devastating consequences for the economy, for jobs and for millions of individual citizens' lives," he said.

"We now learn that if we cannot get the EU trade deal we want, the government threatens, in a 'Trump Brexit', to make Britain a low-tax haven with lower labour and environmental regulation, in an attempt to attract foreign firms once we have left the EU.

"That would also mean continued shrinking of the state, even more savage cuts in public services and even greater inequality, hitting hardest the poorest and most vulnerable citizens."

Meanwhile, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in Dublin last night that indifference is an even bigger threat to Europe's future than a hatred of others.

He appealed to young Irish people to become passionate in defending the ideals of a mutually beneficial Europe and not to be indifferent.

Read more: Tony Blair launches campaign to persuade Britain to remain in EU

He told members of University College Dublin's Law Society that the European Union must be defended with heartfelt arguments instead of cold statistics.

In terms of Europe's future, he said: "I'm worried not just because of hatred, the exclusion of minorities.....I'm worried about indifference.

"Indifference is worse...Passionately disagree, but don't be indifferent. If you are indifferent, it's my generation that will continue to break things...

"Stop thinking that everything will be all right just by putting something on Facebook," he said.

Irish Independent

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