Islamist violence shows NI and Republic must co-operate: Brokenshire

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has stressed there “must be no let up” in co-operation between the UK security services and the Garda.

James Brokenshire, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday at the invitation of the Institute for International and European Affairs, talked of the need to keep cross-border relationships alive – not just to combat home-grown threats, but also Islamic extremists.

He also rejected the idea that the Good Friday Agreement would be damaged by the UK’s departure from the European Union.

His speech came weeks after Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams described Brexit as a “hostile act” which threatened to “undermine” the agreement, and just days after US Senator George Mitchell – who helped to broker the agreement – warned that Brexit could lead to less cross-border co-operation.

Sky News had quoted the senator on Sunday as saying that the EU helped create the environment for the agreement, and that “I think the UK being out of the European Union may reduce the prospect for further co-operation” between the UK and the Republic.

Mr Brokenshire said that the success of the land border “comes from the fact that it is seamless and invisible”.

He said that the UK is “confident” it can retain a common travel area, and that it wants “tariff-free and barrier-free trade” – adding that the government is “open minded in the method to secure as frictionless arrangements as possible – whether that be through associate membership of a Customs Union or through a bespoke customs agreement”.

Turning to security, he said: “Although the security situation is markedly different from the dark days of the Troubles, there can be no let-up in our vigilance.

“Equally, the shared risks from organised cross-border crime and from Daesh and Al Qaida inspired terrorists underlines the essential need for more co-operation, not less.”

He concluded: “Finally, I want to make clear that the UK government will take no risks with Northern Ireland’s hard-won political stability...

I emphatically reject any suggestion that the decision to leave the EU will somehow weaken or imperil the political settlement in Northern Ireland or the peace that we now have.”