Brexiteers are going back on their words when it comes to a hard border in Ireland - an extremely dangerous trend.
Two weeks ago, the deal that helped secure peace in Northern Ireland came under attack from multiple Conservatives. It seems that our Foreign Secretary has been bolstering those attacks behind the scenes.
First we saw Tory MP and former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson suggest that the landmark Good Friday Agreement agreement had ‘outlived its use’.
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan then claimed the agreement had ‘failed’. Pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey even joined the fray, adding it was ‘unsustainable’.
But it is figures in government who appear to be doing the hard work of undermining the Good Friday Agreement.
The debate comes down to the issue of the Customs Union: leaving the Customs Union – i.e. putting an end to the tariff-free movement of goods with the EU. That would mean new tariffs. Which would in turn mean a difference between the Republic and the North’s trade policies, and therefore a need for border checks.
That ‘hard border’ – physical infrastructure and staff doing the job – would go against the very core of the Good Friday Agreement.
And it is precisely what Boris Johnson (and other Brexiteers) said would be totally off the cards after Brexit.
Let’s have a look at what he’s been saying:
- 29th February 2016: Boris Johnson says the situation on the island of Ireland would be unaffected by Brexit: “I think the situation would be absolutely unchanged.”
- 21st November 2017: Boris Johnson tells the House of Commons that: “There can be no hard border. That would be unthinkable, and it would be economic and political madness. I think everybody, on both sides of this House, understands the social, political and spiritual ramifications of allowing any such thing to happen.”
- 27th February 2018: Sky News obtain a leaked letter from Foreign Secretary to the PM, playing down a hard border in Ireland – saying it is ‘wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’’.
How can we trust anything he says?
Best for Britain supporter and Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said the ‘cat is out of the bag’:
“Boris Johnson, in spite of claiming today that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is no more of a problem than that between Camden and Westminster, knows that the real risk is of a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland. He knows this could lead to a resumption of hostilities.
“The government must step away from the precipice and concede that the UK must stay in the Customs Union, grant people a vote on the deal and an Exit from Brexit.”
Open Britain slammed the Foreign Secretary’s hypocrisy.
Ian Murray MP, leading supporter of the campaign, said:
“Boris Johnson promised ahead of the referendum that there would be no change to the invisible border in Ireland. Yet this leaked memo suggests he would rather undermine the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process than take the only path towards fulfilling his promise: keeping the whole of the UK in the Single Market and Customs Union.
“It can be little wonder that negotiations over Ireland are now severely strained: because Theresa May and her ministers have consistently failed to be honest about the implications of the hard Brexit they seek.”
What else are Ministers campaigning for in private – while arguing the opposite to voters?
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