Brexit hard border exposed as con trick: DUP

The EU and Irish government's contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit have exposed warnings of a hard border as a 'con trick', the DUP has claimed.

Thursday, 20th December 2018, 5:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:33 am

The European Commission has set out plans for 14 areas most likely to be impacted if the UK leaves the bloc without a deal, but the Irish border was notably absent from the list.

Dublin has also published a 131-page ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ document outlining back up plans for almost 20 sectors.

But again, crucially, the dossier made no mention of how the Republic plans to address the Irish border issue post-Brexit.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his government has made no preparations whatsoever for a hard border

The paper says the government’s main focus is to prevent the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland, though it does not specify how that will be prevented if the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement is rejected by Parliament.

DUP Westminster leader Mr Dodds said the fact that the border issue had been omitted from the plans demonstrated that, in the event of a no-deal scenario, a hard border will not come to pass.

His remarks came hours before Irish Premier Leo Varadkar said that his government has made “no preparations whatsoever” for a hard border on the island.

Despite the looming possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Varadkar said he felt that if his government made plans to facilitate a hard border it would become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

He insisted that Dublin was not preparing for a hard border nor was it planning to introduce any sort of physical infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

And he said the best way to avoid a hard Brexit is for Parliament to implement Theresa May’s draft withdrawal deal.

The threat of a hard border is the main justification for the EU’s proposed backstop, which aims to keep NI in the EU customs union after Brexit, but which unionists fear will weaken the Union.

Mr Dodds said the notion that it is necessary to have checks in the Irish Sea to avoid a hard border between NI and the Irish Republic is an “utter con trick”.

The North Belfast MP added that the EU’s back up plans “totally avoid spelling out” what happens on the border, adding: “What does that tell you? Even in the event of a so-called no-deal scenario a hard border won’t happen.

“Even the Dublin authorities in its no-deal plans admitted no checks on goods at the border.

“The utter hypocrisy of those espousing the current withdrawal agreement with its trap of a backstop has been completely exposed.”

Asked by the News Letter this week, the EU did not explicitly say who might be responsible for building physical infrastructure at the border.

But TUV leader Jim Allister has maintained that, if the EU chooses to impose the hard border, Dublin would be obliged to implement it on the ground.

DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson said the EU and the Irish Republic’s warnings of a hard Brexit were “mere bluffs”, adding: “They will not be putting any checkpoints at the border.

“A recent mapping exercise carried out by the Irish army has discovered almost 100 more crossings points into NI than was previously thought, making the idea of imposing a hard border totally and utter impossible.”

Offering an explanation as to why the Irish border was not addressed in his government’s contingency plans, Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said the backstop is the only solution.

“For us to be giving signals that there’s any other way this could be solved would be foolish,” he told RTE.

Mr Coveney added that it would not be helpful for the document to be “dominated by that border debate”.

Dublin’s contingency plans identified affected sectors that would require up to between 40 and 50 pieces of new legislation.

The no-deal plans include the purchase of land at ports to prevent congestion from new customs.

Speaking at a media briefing, Mr Varadkar said: “The contingency plans we are making are very real but they are happening at our ports, particularly Dublin Port, Dublin Airport and Rosslare, where we have acquired or are in the process of acquiring land and will develop border control posts in those places.

“They may be needed in March in the event of a hard Brexit, but if they are not needed in March, they will be, or are very likely to be, needed at some point into the future.

“So that is the contingency planning that we are making, but we are not making to the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We simply cannot countenance that being the case.”