Wednesday 18 July 2018

Theresa May warned over dissident republicans if there is no Brexit deal

Theresa May
Theresa May

Richard Wheeler, Harriet Line, Dan O'Donoghue and Jon Vale

Theresa May has been warned no Brexit deal is "reckless and dangerous", as "utterly ruthless" dissident republicans would target border officials.

Independent MP Lady Hermon (North Down) said a hard border would inevitably exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK and EU failed to agree a deal.

She added the UK Government had a "moral" responsibility to take care of all officials, including those from HM Revenue and Customs, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and UK Border Force.

Lady Hermon has attracted support from Conservative MPs for her European Union (Withdrawal) Bill proposal - new clause 70 - which seeks to preserve the principles of the Good Friday Agreement in the legislation.

The Bill seeks to transfer European law into British law, and says it may not amend or repeal the Northern Ireland Act 1998 - which is underpinned by the agreement.

Lady Hermon said she believed the wording was technically correct but questioned what it meant, insisting the language must be clearer in stating its commitment to the principles of the agreement.

Read More: Taoiseach: Brexit talks can be 'picked up' in New Year if deal not possible

Lady Hermon recalled that her late husband Jack had to attend almost 100 funerals for officers killed during his 10 years as chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Lady Hermon said a hard border would inevitably exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK and EU failed to agree a deal
Lady Hermon said a hard border would inevitably exist between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK and EU failed to agree a deal

She said her husband supported the Good Friday Agreement despite the constitutional consequences of Sinn Fein being involved in the Executive, adding that it had brought stability and peace to Northern Ireland which has benefited the UK, the Republic and the EU.

She went on: "We have normality in Northern Ireland, we have peace, and we undoubtedly have people alive today that would not otherwise have been alive.

"May I just say ever so loudly and strongly to senior members of the Conservative Party - I do not want to hear them or see them on television talking about pushing ahead with no deal. Let's just move on from no deal.

"It's an absolute nonsense, it is so reckless and so dangerous because dissident republicans ... are active, they're dangerous, they're utterly ruthless.

"And if I had a child or grandchild who hadn't chosen a different career - I don't have any grandchildren by the way, I've got two children who have chosen other careers, it won't be politics, sadly, because we do need leadership in Northern Ireland, we do need young people coming to politics - I would not be encouraging them to join UK Border Force or HMRC in the event of no-deal Brexit because we'll inevitably have a hard border.

"It must be a moral responsibility, a duty on this Government to take care of all personnel, all officials in HMRC, in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and UK Border Force."

Lady Hermon added: "In the event of no deal, we certainly face a hard border and dissident republicans will regard PSNI officers, HMRC officers and UK border officials as legitimate targets.

"I don't want that on my conscience and I don't believe for one moment the Prime Minister wants that either, or the Government.

"So, for senior members of the Conservative Party, I plead with them to stop the nonsense of talking up a no deal."

Read More: Theresa May pledges to protect 'constitutional integrity' of UK amid Irish border deal deadlock

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke said Mrs May's apparent border agreement, vetoed by the DUP, seemed to show she shared Lady Hermon's concerns.

He said: "You can't have an open border without having some regulatory convergence and customs convergence both sides.

"That all came to an end when the DUP vetoed it, which makes it extremely important - more than it was - that (Lady Hermon's) amendment is now put into the Bill to make sure we're not backsliding."

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section