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What will a hard border look like if Brexit goes 'very wrong'? Varadkar says soldiers may return

The Taoiseach says Ireland is being ‘victimised’ by Brexit.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said if things go very wrong with Brexit the border would look like it did 20 years ago.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said if things go very wrong with Brexit the border would look like it did 20 years ago.

WHEN ASKED WHAT a hard border would look “if things go very wrong” with Brexit,  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said soldiers could return.

During an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos today Varadkar was asked what the border is going to look like “if they screw this up”.  

Varadkar said it would “involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up”.

With the Withdrawal Agreement being voted down by the House of Commons, and no border solutions being put forward by the British, the Taoiseach’s comments are viewed as stark warning as 29 March rapidly approaches. 

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin said that the Taoiseach’s comments represented a significant shift in the government’s rhetoric.

“When the Taoiseach tells an audience in Davos that the Army may have to be sent to the border, he is contradicting everything that we have been told (by him and the Tánaiste) about preparations. It is hard to see how this helps our case.”

While there is much speculation about what form a border between the Republic and Northern Ireland could look like in the case of a no-deal scenario, it is understood the Taoiseach was not talking about sending Irish troops to the border and that it was not a statement of intent. 

Staying firm on the backstop

He told Bloomberg Television that the Irish government was standing “firm” on its position on the backstop mechanism to avoid a hard border stating that no other alternatives have been put forward by the UK. 

While he said he is open to compromise, if the UK compromise on their red lines, he will not back down on the backstop. 

The “objective is to avoid a hard border” he explained, adding:

If there is another mechanism that avoids a hard border, then of course we will listen to that, but they are not offering that.

He said some UK politicians are stating that they are against the backstop but are also in favour of avoiding a hard border – adding that the two don’t marry.

Talk around technologies that do not exist yet is also not a solution, he added. 

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“No one has been able to show them to me,” said Varadkar, adding that the Irish government will not roll back on the backstop “for a promise to solve it later or talk about technologies that do not exist yet”. 

“We have given a lot already… why is it that the country that is being victimised is the one that is always being asked to give,” he asked. 

Speaking on the RTE Six One News this evening, Minister of State for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment Patrick O’Donovan said that the Taoiseach was only repeating what had been said before.

He said that it didn’t matter whether the Taoiseach made comments “in Davos or Dingle”, and that what he was saying was that “the border of the past is not what we want to see in the future”.

“The Taoiseach was outlining a position that could potentially happen in a no-deal scenario that we’re not envisaging,” O’Donovan said.

“The Taoiseach was articulating what he’s been saying all along,” he said, adding that they would not return to a border with physical infrastructure that needed to be policed.

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