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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Labour MP praised for explanation of why Brexit poses a huge problem for the Irish border

“If the peace process is finished, then peace on the island of Ireland is under huge threat.”

WE’VE HAD A good few moments during the past few months where Brexit has highlighted the ignorance of a number of British politicians about Northern Ireland.

Two of the most recent examples were when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the Irish border problem was “a millenium bug” issue; another was when Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said that when she was appointed, she didn’t understand why unionists didn’t vote for nationalist parties and vice versa.

So it came as a bit of a shock to people when they heard Labour MP Stephen Pound not only explain why Brexit makes the Irish border so problematic, but describe it with such passion.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland said at the Labour party conference that the border issue was “life and death to the people of Ireland”.

“If you look at the border, 302 miles long, if you think that a camera up a pole can actually provide a border security alert – that will become a target.

If you have a target, you have to defend the target. If you have a defender, you have to have someone to actually protect the defender. Before you know where you are, you’ve got uniformed UK [Border Agency] or customs officers on the border.
If you do that – and I’m not being hysterical about this – then the peace process is finished, the minute you have uniformed troops on that border. If the peace process is finished, then peace on the island of Ireland is under huge threat.

He rubbished claims that the Swedish/Norway border could be replicated in Ireland to solve issues.

“The Swedish/Norway border closes at 10 o’clock at night, and there are more crossing points between Monaghan and Northern Ireland than there are between the whole of Sweden and Norway.”

Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond are among the Irish figures who praised Pound for his informed commentary.

“The tragedy of Irish history is that we have had so many English politicians like Jacob Rees Mogg and so few like Stephen Pound,” Mac Lochlainn said, who’s from Donegal.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was criticised earlier this year for saying that the UK should “call Ireland’s bluff” on the border issue.

There’s been a ramping up in tensions between the EU and UK brexit negotiating teams in the past week after UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers plan was criticised as unworkable. May responded with a statement the following day saying the UK deserved to be treated with respect.

Media reports indicated that the British premier was blindsided by EU leaders’ criticism of her plan in Salzburg, while a similar volume of reports said that the EU were not concerned by her fiery response from 10 Downing Street, saying that it was posturing after being politically wounded.

May has promised to put forward the UK’s suggestion for a detailed, workable solution for the Irish border in the event that the UK leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, as they have promised to do.

Depending on how the EU respond to those proposals, the final Brexit deal will be agreed and be put to a vote in the EU and in the UK House of Commons.

The UK is scheduled to officially leave the European Union on the 29 March next year, deal or no deal (more on the Brexit timeline here).

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