Border checkpoints and border controls ‘to follow Brexit’ according to Nigel Lawson
By Bernard Purcell
Claims by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson – who served under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s – that Brexit will see a return of border checkpoints between Ireland and Northern Ireland have been met with skepticism by the British government – on both sides of the EU debate.
Border checkpoints and passport controls between Britain and Ireland for the first time could follow Britain’s departure from the EU, Tory Brexit campaigners have warned.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer under then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson said it was a likely or inevitable consequence of an anti-EU vote on 23 June.
Lord `Lawson is one of the leading Brexit campaigners. The prospect was also raised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Cambridge last year as yet another reason to mobilise Irish people in this country to vote against Brexit.
Lord Lawson, the startup chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, was the Chancellor who pushed to keep sterling at a then unsustainably high three DM (Deutschmarks) and to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism, ultimately leading to impossibly high UK interest rates and Black Wednesday.
Now Lord Lawson, he told the BBC’s Sunday morning Andrew Marr show “there would have to be border controls” if the Brexit camp wins the 23 June referendum.
He said that to genuinely get on top of uncontrolled immigration into the UK “there would have to be border controls but not a prevention of genuine Irish from coming in, from crossing the border.”
“There is now particularly close co-operation between the security services in Northern Ireland and the security services in the Republic to prevent the IRA and the terrorist threat from being worse than it is,” he said.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, who wants the UK to remain in the EU, said on Marr’s BBC programme Border controls could not be entirely ruled out.
“We’d have to wait and see, but what that does highlight is the very dangerous prospects that are out there if we do leave the EU. The lack of certainty is what concerns me,” she said.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, who is also campaigning to leave the EU, has claimed the border checks between north and south may not be necessary “at all”.
“That’s not inevitable at all. We’ve always had a much closer relationship with the citizens of the Republic of Ireland than with the rest of the EU.
“It’s perfectly possible to maintain that free movement with Irish citizens. After all we give them privileges in the UK which we accord to no other EU citizens, like the right to vote in our elections,” she said.
Fellow Brexit campaigner and Tory MP Dominc Raab told Dermot Murnaghan’s programme on Sky News that passport controls may have to be put in place between Britain and Ireland for the first time.
“We would have to look very carefully at that, we’ve got a bilateral relationship with Ireland, a very close relationship.
“We have also got the history of the Troubles. All of these things could be handled very sensitively.
“If you are worried about border controls and security…. if you are worried about the effect of those EU rules, then you couldn’t leave a back door without some kind either of checks there with any country or assurances in relation to the checks that they are conducting, obviously, otherwise everyone with ill will towards this country would go round that route.
“So the truth is that the broader point here is that if you want to have safe borders, if we want to have proper checks to deal with terrorism and broader crime, you have to come out of the EU.”
“The UK have had a common border travel area since the Irish Republic was formed and we expect that to continue,” he said.
The Vote Leave campaign later said in a statement in response to Lord Lawson: “We don’t anticipate border controls being put in place between northern and southern Ireland.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said any attempt to introduce Irish Border controls would be “a major setback for the political process in the North”.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: “There is no certainty about what will happen in the event of Brexit, but we know from bitter experience that it is practically impossible to secure the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and as it is likely that freedom of movement will continue to apply on the island of Ireland, the challenge will be to stop illegal immigrants moving into Northern Ireland from the Republic.
“The next question that raises is how will the UK government stop people illegally entering Great Britain from Northern Ireland?
“The hard border could be at the ports and airports at Cairnryan, Heathrow, Gatwick and all the rest. Equally, there is no certainty there will be free trade, and will customs posts return?”