Claims that there will have to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been branded “more belligerent bluffing from the EU”.
The DUP’s Brexit spokesman, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, was responding to comments made by the European Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, who when asked to speculate about what might happen in a no-deal scenario replied: “I think it’s pretty obvious – you will have a border.”
Responding to the spokesman’s comments, Mr Wilson took to Twitter, saying: “More belligerent bluffing from the EU in a desperate attempt to up the ante. It didn’t work before and it won’t work now.”
He later tweeted a link to a BBC report which quoted a spokesperson for Irish premier Leo Varadkar saying: “We will not accept a hard border on this island and therefore we are not planning for one.”
Mr Wilson added: “Ignore the bluffing, there won’t be a hard border!”
The UK and Irish governments have both pledged to avoid a hard border, and East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has said “EU scaremongering” on the subject must stop.
“The EU must spell out what exactly this ‘hard border’ would look like. Residents and business people are being bombarded daily with a diet of fear and recklessly inaccurate scare stories,” he said.
“Setting aside for the moment the more important matter of securing a better deal that people can support, the EU should explain what this ‘hard border’ would consist of. How would it be constructed? Where would the employees be drawn from? What steps would be implemented, and by whom to prevent the ease with which people and companies could avoid using the crossings where this ‘hard border’ was constructed?
“This is a fundamental question that the EU must answer given the frequency with which they have raised the subject matter over a period of almost two years.”
TUV leader Jim Allister claimed the only threat of a hard border comes from “the belligerence of the EU”.
Reacting to Mr Schinas’ comments, the North Antrim MLA again questioned who would construct border checkpoints and insisted it wouldn’t be the UK, but “the EU, with the Republic of Ireland as its sub-contractor, who would build any border”.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the EC spokesman’s comments reinforced the need for the Irish government to convene “an all-Ireland forum to plan for a united Ireland and to build for Irish unity” as soon as possible, adding: “The time for burying heads in the sand is over and preparations for a unity referendum must now commence.”