UK immigration controls could shift to Irish ports and airports to avoid 'hard border'
Britain is hoping to move frontline immigration controls to Irish ports and airports to avoid enforcing a ‘hard border’ between the North and the Republic.
Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, has said that London and Dublin will work to strengthen Ireland’s external borders to prevent illegal migration to the UK.
The move would come into effect once the UK leaves the European Union.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Brokenshire said there was now a “high level of collaboration on a joint programme of work” between Ireland and Britain.
“We have put in place a range of measures to further combat illegal migration working closely with the Irish government,” he said.
“Our focus is to strengthen the external border of the common travel area [CTA], building on the strong collaboration with our Irish partners.”
He also stressed that Brexit would not destabilise Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions, and would not provide dissidents with a propaganda boost.
“There is no reason to think that the outcome of the referendum will do anything to undermine the rock-solid commitment of the UK government and the people of Northern Ireland to the settlement set out in the Belfast agreement and its successors," he added.
Questions over the north-south border have been rampant since the UK voted to leave the EU, with fears that border controls would have to be put in place to control immigration.
Such measures could be seen as a violation of the Good Friday agreement.
But shifting the focus of immigration controls to Dublin Airport and Rosslare Europort could help to avoid such a violation.
The proposed measures would be mainly aimed at non-Europeans wishing to enter the common travel area between Ireland and Britain.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he welcomed Mr Brokenshire’s commitment to an invisible border between North and South.
“In terms of the threat of illegal immigration through the border, the sharing of information is vital, as is the sharing of systems and the use of digital technology,” he said.
“These are means by which we can ensure that any adverse impact is minimised. The object of our engagement is to maintain the common travel area.”
But Mr Flanagan added that upgrading immigration controls between the two countries would have to be negotiated along with Ireland’s EU partners.
“I have been impressing on my fellow 26 EU foreign ministerial colleagues the importance of maintaining what is now an invisible border,” he said.
He added that his EU counterparts had a "deep understanding" of the consequences a heavily fortified border could have on the peace process.