Friday 15 February 2019

'You are treating us as if we are stupid' - Minister refuses to answer questions on plans for hard Border

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has refused to clarify the Government's plans for a no-deal Brexit as the EU's stance on the necessity for a Border in a no-deal Brexit has dramatically hardened.

Speaking this morning on RTE's Morning Ireland, presenter Audrey Carville said that Minister Creed was treating listeners as "stupid" as he repeatedly refused to answer questions on customs checks in the event of a hard Border.

Yesterday, the EU indicated there will be an obligation on Ireland to erect a hard Border in a disorderly Brexit.

The development left ministers struggling to come up with a coherent response. On one hand, the Government claimed to be “preparing for all eventualities” but at the same time “absolutely” denied planning for Border checks.

Speaking this morning, Minister Creed repeated the Government's claims that there will be no hard Border.

"It is important to remain focused on the reality of where this is at politically now. It is not politically the case that there is any diminution or any fracturing of the consensus of the EU 27. The focus is and rightly should be on what the UK is going to do. If they change their self-imposed red lines, that offers the opportunity to revisit the Withdrawal Agreement and the Commission has clearly stated that."

Presenter Audrey Carville challenged the Minister's response asking him to clarify where border checks will be carried out.

"We are talking this morning about a no-deal Brexit and what will happen on this island on March 30 when a tanker load of milk leaves Tyrone to deliver to Donegal. Who will check that tanker of milk?" asked Ms Carville.

Despite being asked more than five times by the RTÉ presenter, Minister Creed refused to clarify where customs checks will be held and who will do the checks.

He also refused to answer questions surrounding the practicability of a no-deal Brexit.

"We do not envisage under any circumstances Border infrastructure," Mr Creed replied.

Read more: Laura Larkin: 'Michael Creed's radio intervention underlines messaging from Government is outdated'

"What is abundantly clear, and has been from day one, is that this Government is not in any circumstance returning to a situation where we have hard Border infrastructure."

Minister Creed added that the "UK government must be the focus now".

Ms Carville again asked the Minister to clarify the Government's plans.

"Many people listening this morning may think you are treating us all as if we are stupid," she said.

Mr Creed refuted the claims saying that it is "imperative that the Irish Government's position is clearly understood in the context of the debate, which is current and fluid in the UK parliament".

"We have a solution to these issues. We share the same position [that Northern Ireland] shares. There will be no hard Border."

Mr Creed added that the border issue is dealt with in the context of the backstop.

"Minister, please," Ms Carville replied. "With respect, all of us who are invested in this, as is most of the country, understand that this is not the case. The Withdrawal Agreement does not deal with a no-deal Brexit. So I'm asking you, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, who will do the checking on the animals and food products and where will they be checked?"

Mr Creed replied that the Government has made some arrangements in the case of a hard Brexit for border inspection posts on an east-west basis, including at Dublin Port.

"But what about products going from Tyrone to Donegal, Monaghan to Armagh, where will the border be?" Ms Carville asked again.

Mr Creed repeated that the plan is not for hard-Border infrastructure to be implemented.

"The next move is clearly in the court of Westminister."

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