NI police federation boss rubbishes Brexiteer plan for Irish border

Police Federation Northern Ireland chairman Mark Lindsay, who has dismissed a Brexiteer plan to use tax inspector "flying squads" to solve the Irish border problem. Photo credit: Police Federation Northern Ireland/PA Wire
Police Federation Northern Ireland chairman Mark Lindsay, who has dismissed a Brexiteer plan to use tax inspector "flying squads" to solve the Irish border problem. Photo credit: Police Federation Northern Ireland/PA Wire

A Brexiteer plan to use tax inspector “flying squads” to solve the Irish border problem has been dismissed by Northern Ireland’s Police Federation chief.

The plan, reported to be under consideration by the European Research Group of Conservative MPs, would see “mobile inspections teams” roaming Northern Ireland to ensure customs rules are being obeyed, ensuring no hard border.

The Sun reported that under their “Alternative Chequers” blueprint, firms would be made to self-declare the tax they owe on goods crossing the border with the EU, as well as certify the standards and quality.

But NI Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay told the Press Association the proposal was no more than an “aspirational solution”.

He said: “I think it’s an aspirational solution but the fact is that we have operations going on daily with HMRC in relation fuel laundering and smuggling and people trafficking.

“For the NCA, for all those agencies that are being deployed on the border or into those border areas, they almost have a one per one police protection, so you need this ring of steel if you are going to do anything like is being suggested.”

Mr Lindsay was in Westminster to press home the need for more Brexit planning in Northern Ireland with ministers.

The visit follows a warning from Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton that the Government is failing to prepare for the impact of the UK leaving the EU on the peace and security in NI.

In June Mr Hamilton wrote to the Home Office to request funding for the recruitment of 400 additional officers for post-Brexit border security issues.

Mr Lindsay said: “We don’t know what sort of border we’re gonna be left with, whether it be soft border, hard border but whatever sort of border we’re left with it will be a land frontier with the European Union.

“As we move towards a border which has to be enforced again, whether hard or soft, there’s an expectation there will be a boarder probably about 20 miles deep, so you’ve a 310 mile frontier which will probably encourage a black economy for about 10 to 15 miles either side.

“Whoever works along that area of the border, will become a target for dissident Republican terrorists.”

He added: “In the absence of having any military support, which I think everybody would see as a retrograde step in the peace process, we need to upscale resourcing.”

Mr Lindsay also warned that it was “almost too late” to recruit the required officers to police whatever border arrangement was agreed.

He said: “We’re already behind the curve, for recruitment it takes two years for a police officer once recruited to actually be through their probationary period to be deployed.

“There needs to be a real wake up, lives will be at risk.”

Asked if other police forces from across the United Kingdom could plug the gap if required in Northern Ireland, Mr Lindsay said: “It is an option, but I think whenever you look at the specific skill set, particularly the counter terrorism role, I don’t think it’s feasible.”