Mike Nesbitt has suggested two possible routes out of the seeming choice between a post-Brexit physical border on the island of Ireland or passport control between the Province and the rest of the UK.
The SDLP has suggested that there should be a border around the island of Ireland, something which would likely mean that anyone from Northern Ireland would have to show their passport to travel elsewhere within the UK.
When asked if it would be unacceptable to him for passport control to come between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, the Ulster Unionist leader told the News Letter: “We should resist that with every breath of our body, but what we don’t know yet is what the regime will be because until we identify that we don’t know what sort of controls we will or will not need.
“What I mean by that is: are we pitching to maintain access to the single market and are we staying in the customs union?”
If the UK is not in the customs union, then “there will have to be a relatively hard border with physical checks of goods and lorries”, he said.
When asked whether it is more important to retain free travel within the island of Ireland or free travel across the UK, he said: “I think both are important; I don’t think you can choose one...”
When pressed on the possibility of that being the choice which faces the Province, Mr Nesbitt proposed other possible solutions, with diplomatic ‘British soil’ for immigration purposes either in Dublin or elsewhere in the EU so that UK passport control takes place before visitors even enter the island of Ireland.
“For example, if you look at what the UK Government are doing with France, they are contributing to the French assessment of people coming into Calais and trying to make their way into England. If you look at Dublin Airport, a small geographical part of the terminal is now American soil and they do those pre-checks there.
“So there are examples of how you could imaginatively look at ways in which you actually deal with the issue before people even arrive on the island.”