Friday 20 September 2019

'We may need a police presence, an army presence' - Taoiseach warns of troops on border

  • Speaking in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos
  • Varadkar expressed frustration with British politicians who say they don’t want a hard border but also oppose to the backstop
  • 'Proposed technologies don’t exist and nobody’s been able to show them to me' - Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned of the prospect of troops on the border in a worst-case Brexit.

He said that a hard border could “involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up.”

The warning came in an interview with Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

It comes after sources warned that some 600 gardaí would be required to man the estimated 300 border crossings in a hard Brexit situation.

However Garda Commissioner Drew Harris moved to deny that there was a plan to move 600 gardaí to the border.

Mr Varadkar said the so-called backstop is needed to prevent a return of border infrastructure.

He also said: “The problem with that in the context of Irish politics and history is those things become targets."

He said the onus is on the British government to find solutions and asked why a country “victimised” by Brexit should be asked to compromise.

The Taoiseach also hit out at British politicians who say they want to avoid a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland but also oppose the so-called 'backstop'.

Much of the opposition to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU among MPs is over the backstop which is effectively an insurance policy to avoid a hard border.

Brexiteers who oppose it fear that it would see the UK tied in to EU rules indefinitely.

Mr Varadkar expressed frustration with British politicians who say they don’t want a hard border but also oppose to the backstop.

He told the Bloomberg news agency that the EU is open to compromise with the UK if it were to change its "self-imposed red lines".

But he insisted the objective is to avoid a hard border and said "the backstop is the means by which we achieve it".

He added: "So if there is another mechanism, if the UK can come forward with a proposal… that avoids a hard border, then of course we’ll listen to that but unfortunately that’s not what I’m getting.

"I’m hearing from a lot of people, a lot of British politicians and British actors saying of course we’re against a hard border and we’re also against the backstop.

"But the only alternative they can offer to a backstop is a promise to sort it out later or a promise around technologies that don’t exist yet.

"We’re not going to give up a mechanism that we know will work, that’s legally binding," Mr Varadkar said.

Asked he he had seen examples of the proposed technologies, Mr Varadkar replied: "They don’t exist and nobody’s been able to show them to me."

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