Flanagan argues against ‘unrealistic’ border
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan, has become the latest prominent politician to promote the maintenance of an invisible border between Northern and the Republic of Ireland.
He argued that any attempts to fortify the border to prevent migrants entering Britain via the back door would be unrealistic.
His comments follow Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s repeated claim that there would be no return to a hard border following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
“It is absolutely essential that every effort be made to ensure the existence of what is an invisible border,” Mr Flanagan said. “So any suggestion that there will be a heavily fortified EU frontier, or a heavily fortified border, be it for customs and trade on the one hand, or for security and immigration on the other is simply inoperable. It won’t work.”
His words were echoed by the former Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, who campaigned strongly for Brexit. She claimed that in spite of the risks of illegal immigration posed by an invisible border, it was essential that it remained open.
“The reality is that would mean there would be perhaps some risk that non-Irish EU citizens might enter the UK over that land border,” she said. “But the way you tackle people who come and work in the UK without the appropriate permissions is through measures such as cracking down on employing illegal workers.
“The border between the UK and Ireland has never been policed in a significantly hard way, even during the height of the Troubles; it was very much a free-flowing border.
“The common travel area survived the Troubles. So I think the idea of imposing, suddenly, a whole host of new border checks, frankly isn’t practical and it’s certainly not desirable.”
Meanwhile, Mr Flanagan expressed concern at reports that Britain’s Secretary for International Trade, Liam Fox, is pressuring the Prime Minister Theresa May to pull out of the EU customs union in order to pursue better global deals.
He described the comments attributed to Dr Fox as “surprising”, suggested that this decision would be damaging to Ireland and stressed the need to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy post-Brexit.