Tony Blair calls for Britain-Ireland deal on border to limit Brexit damage

Chairman of the EPP Group Manfred Weber, Tony Blair and Fine Gael's Sean Kelly at a Brexit meeting in Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

Chairman of the EPP Group Manfred Weber, Tony Blair and Fine Gael's Sean Kelly at a Brexit meeting in Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

Tony Blair has said a deal between Britain and Ireland on the future of the border with Northern Ireland is the best way of limiting damage from Brexit.

The former British prime minister told a meeting in the Irish Republic of Europe’s centre-right political groups that a “hard border” on the island would be a disaster.

“If the UK and the Republic were able to agree a way forward on the border, then we would have the best chance of limiting the damage. It is in the interests of us all, including our European partners, for this to happen,” Mr Blair said.

He said getting consensus on the border will be crucial in the Brexit negotiations.

“Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening. However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support,” Mr Blair said.

“A hard border between the countries would be a disaster and I am sure everyone will and must do all they can to avoid it.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is also attending the European People’s Party (EPP) conference in Co Wicklow. That association is the largest group in the European Parliament and includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.

Mr Barnier will then travel to the Republic’s border with Northern Ireland where he will hold discussions at a business park in Co Monaghan.

On Thursday he warned that customs controls are part of the EU’s border management.