Sunday 16 December 2018

Trouble at soft Border 'will inevitably lead to armed guards'

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A soft Border with the North post-Brexit will be temporary before the region is eventually patrolled by armed guards, a former UK deputy prime minister has warned.

Michael Heseltine, who served under John Major, said a technological solution would lead to the establishment of a soft Border in the immediate aftermath of Britain leaving the EU, but an inevitable "incident" would lead to it becoming a hard Border. He, and another former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, also spoke out against the idea of Sinn Féin's MPs taking up their seats in Westminster, saying that it would be counter-productive.

They were in Dublin yesterday with Labour party politician Andrew Adonis, discussing the future of the Border with Fianna Fáil.

Lord Heseltine said that he predicted Brexit negotiations would eventually lead to a soft Border on the island.

However, he warned that an "incident" at such a border would be inevitable and this would lead to guards there being armed.

"I just am concerned that putting off the decision doesn't actually make the decision any easier. It just enables people to delude themselves that there is somehow or other a resolution to this issue that doesn't address the Border."

He added a hard Border would not be good for the peace process.

"Borders need to be policed and I know the only way you can police borders in modern society is with armed policemen," he said.

"I think that would be a tragedy beyond price for Ireland and the United Kingdom, yet the issue is being ducked, avoided, put off."

The former Conservative MP also warned against Sinn Féin taking up its seats in Westminster, saying "it would stoke too many memories which would not be helpful".

Sinn Féin has come under pressure from political parties and TDs to take up its six Westminster seats to join calls within the parliament for the UK to remain in the EU.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg said Sinn Féin resuming its seats would prevent MPs from UK Prime Minister Theresa May's party speaking out or voting against Brexit.

"Anyone who thinks it just adds six votes to a growing block of anti-Brexiteer MPs I think probably understates that you would probably lose as many people as you would gain," said Mr Clegg.

"I think it would be incredibly difficult for any Conservative MP to vote in the same lobbies as Sinn Féin MPs, so it is not something we would recommend.

"But it would be something that would no doubt create quite a ferocious reaction amongst other people in other parties in parliament."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will discuss the progress being made in Brexit negotiations tomorrow at a European Council meeting.

He said he was confident a hard Border would be avoided.

"I am pleased that the UK has now agreed that a backstop solution to avoid a hard Border proposed in December, will form part of the legal text, and that all the issues identified by the EU side in the draft will be addressed, to deliver a legally sound solution to avoid a hard Border on our island," said Mr Varadkar.

Irish Independent

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