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Talk of 'telepathic' borders and 'getting dogs ready' as Varadkar and Martin clash on Brexit

There were tense exchanges at Leaders’ Questions today.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has accused Fianna Fáil of acting as though a hard border with Northern Ireland is inevitable, amid testy exchanges in the Dáil.

Varadkar was facing criticism from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the leaking of a Revenue report that details the effects of Brexit on trade with the UK.

The report was drafted before the Brexit referendum and finds that an open customs border would be impossible from a customs perspective, and would lead to a vast increase in workloads at ports and airports.

The report remains unpublished but was leaked to RTÉ late last week.

In Leaders’ Questions today, Martin accused Varadkar’s government of suppressing the document.

“You told Deputy Donnelly and other representatives that you would share this kind of information with them and you did not do it, ” Martin said, referring to Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly.

The government did act in bad faith and you did withhold this from the Dáil in the form of parliamentary questions that were asked that were not properly and comprehensively answered as they should have been.

mm Micheál Martin and Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson. Source: Oireachtas TV

Martin said that the work being carried out by Revenue was “commendable” and demonstrated the “enormous physical impact” that Brexit could cause.

“Once negotiations are completed, the UK will become a third country for customs purposes and associated formalities will become unavoidable. And while this will affect all member states, the effect will be more profound in Ireland,” Martin said.

Solution

Responding to Martin, Varadkar denied that the report had been suppressed by government.

He noted that it was from 2015 and thus did not take into account some significant recent factors, such as the Brexit vote itself and the UK’s statement that it was against a physical border with the Republic of Ireland.

He told Martin:

I can assure you I didn’t suppress it because I didn’t even know it existed until early this week or last week. I have since read it and I’ve no difficulty with it being published. There is nothing in it that should be a surprise to anyone. It’s a desktop analysis by the Revenue commissioners about what may happen in the event of a hard Brexit.

PastedImage-13087 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders' Questions today. Source: Oireachtas.ie

“We’ve been very resistant to any defeatism from anyone, including the opposition to suggest that this hard border is inevitable and we should start preparing for it.

It’s one thing to carry out a desktop analysis as to what may happen under certain scenarios and that has been happening, it’s a total other thing for people to be starting to make preparation for some sort of border that we are going to oppose. And we are going to oppose tooth and nail.

Border guards and dogs

Varadkar has previously stated Ireland will not be helping the UK devise a border that “we don’t want”, and today he attacked Fianna Fáil for pushing for work on border solutions.

“I’ve never been a one to be talking about invisible borders, frictionless borders and telepathic borders or some IT-based solution to this. I’ve alway said that the only solution to this is a political one,” Varadkar told Martin.

He added:

Is Fianna Fáil actually arguing now that we should start training up border guards, that we should start getting dogs ready, that we should start checking out sites for border posts, start checking out sites for truck stops. Is this what Fianna Fáil, the republican party, wants to happen?

Martin then attempted to speak again but was prevented from doing so by Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl, who called on Gerry Adams.

“Well, may I say Ceann Comhairle, 100 years on, it’s good to hear these two parties talking about the border, ” the Sinn Féin leader said.

Read: Whose court is the ball in then? EU and UK can’t decide on who takes next Brexit step >

Read: EU leaders are hoping for Brexit ‘miracles’ but Leo thinks there’s a ‘better vibe’ around talks >

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Rónán Duffy

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