There is no chance of a hard land border so there should be no Irish Sea barrier

An open letter from Gregory Campbell MP to the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss:

See for yourself how in addition it is a practical impossibility for any checking system that would prevent people and goods from traversing our border which has been done for a century
See for yourself how in addition it is a practical impossibility for any checking system that would prevent people and goods from traversing our border which has been done for a century

Dear Ms Truss,

Congratulations on your recent appointment to lead the negotiations with the EU regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol. As you are aware the protocol has caused major trading and constitutional problems since its inception. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has repeatedly committed to resolving these problems but they persist one year after it came into operation.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has discussed with you the issues that have continued to cause problems over the past year and, if not resolved, would cause considerably worse problems in the future.

Letter to the editor

My reason for writing is that, as someone who has lived close to the Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland (RoI) border all my life and who has represented a constituency close to that border for more than 20 years I believe I can speak with an additional degree of authority on the issue of what constitutes a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland.

HMG made the fundamental mistake several years ago of accepting that a ‘hard border’ would follow if no agreement was reached with the EU and renewed violence would subsequently occur in that event. I have repeatedly indicated both in the House and elsewhere that the reason there will be no ‘hard border’ is not because any protocol prevents it but because there cannot be one.

Every party to the issue has declared it would not implement one, the UK government, the Irish government and the EU have all said this. Even if someone were foolish enough to decide on implementing one it would be the simplest of tasks to avoid it with 300 crossing points along our land border.

Irish European Minister Helen McEntee said in June 2020 “there cannot be a physical border and that means ruling out cameras, that means ruling out technology, that means ruling out anything that would imply a border on the island of Ireland”. She added “As far as we are concerned we are not planning for a border, we have never been planning for a border, because it’s not something we can countenance.”

Our own Chief Constable Simon Byrne in August 2019 also said “There are 300 crossing points between our two countries, how on earth are my officers supposed to police that effectively?”.

I understand your time will be extremely pressurised with your range of duties, but I urge you as early as possible to take time to visit the border area to see for yourself how in addition to the politically impossible, there is the practical impossibility for any checking system that would prevent people and goods from traversing either side of our border which has been done for a century including for 50 years before both the UK and RoI entered the EEC.

I conclude with what I trust you might find helpful in discussions with the EU, As there is no realistic political or practical outcome that would result in a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland, and as we in the UK must not accede to any border ‘in the Irish Sea’ it now has to be a case of the EU deciding how it wishes to secure its internal market while the UK secures our own marketplace, restoring the constitutional integrity of the entirety of the nation as we do.

This would be consistent with the commitments already made by HMG in the Command Paper published in July and in the New Decade-New Approach Agreement which is the basis upon which the political institutions were restored in Northern Ireland.

In the absence of agreement with the EU in the very short term, the government must act decisively to safeguard the political institutions and to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK Internal Market.


Gregory Campbell MP, East Londonderry

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdowns having had a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.


now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry, Editor