May: There should be no ‘return to the “borders of the past”

Posted By: October 01, 2016

Claire Simpson. Irish News (Belfast).Saturday, October 1, 2016

THERE should be no return “to the borders of the past” post-Brexit, British prime minister Theresa May has said.

The fate of the Irish border has been plunged into uncertainty since June’s referendum result, with fears for the peace process and economy. Although the UK voted to leave the European Union, 56 percent of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain.

Mrs. May had previously said that Brexit would affect the Irish border.

“If you pulled out of the EU and came out of free movement, then how could you have a situation where there was an open border with a country that was in the EU and had access to free movement?” she said before the referendum.

But yesterday she told the BBC that no-one, including the Executive and the Irish government, wanted to “return to the borders of the past”.

She said the British and Irish governments were discussing how the border could be patrolled after the UK formally leaves the European Union.

“We are discussing with the Irish government at the moment how we can develop these ideas in ways that are
going to ensure that we deliver on the intention of all parties,” she said ahead of the Conservative Party conference this weekend.

Mrs May’s comments come as a parliamentary committee plans to hold hearings next month and December into the fate of the border.

MPs will investigate whether Northern Ireland should have a special status post-Brexit and what changes to visa controls might be needed.

MP Laurence Robertson, committee chairman, said the focus will be on maintaining the existing free movement of people and goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“There is a desire on all sides to maintain the existing open border with the Republic,” he said.

The inquiry team, headed by 13 MPs, is also seeking written submissions from individuals and organisations on the future of the border by October 21.

It was revealed last month that a Brexit contingency report was compiled in May 2015 by officials in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. But the report was not released under Freedom of Information until after the EU referendum was held on June 23 this year.

The document listed more than 20 ways Brexit could damage Northern Ireland’s economy.

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness’s office later claimed the two ministers only became aware of the report after the information request.