Irish border issue 'weaponised' in Brexit debate, Britain's House of Lords told

Irish border issue 'weaponised' in Brexit debate, Britain's House of Lords told

The issue of the Irish border has "almost been weaponised" in the Brexit debate, former Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey has warned.

The peer argued the scale of the problem had been "grossly exaggerated" and cautioned people over the language being used about the threat to the historic peace deal that ended the Troubles in the North.

He complained many of those making such claims had not been involved in the Good Friday Agreement and had not spoken to those who were.

Lord Empey said there were people attempting to use it for political reasons, including Sinn Féin, which he accused of trying to create "a huge crisis".

He made his comments during the marathon second reading debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in the British House of Lords.

Lord Empey said: "I have to say that I believe the question of the Irish border has almost been weaponised in this debate because the scale of the problem in my view has been grossly exaggerated."

He added: "I think we have to put the thing into perspective. Because people, when they bandy language around about threats to the Good Friday Agreement, most of the people who are making those claims did not negotiate the Belfast Agreement and as far as I am aware haven't consulted any of us who did.

"I would just bear in mind to be cautious about the language because people are using this for political purposes.

"It's being used deliberately in the Republic by Sinn Féin to try and create a huge crisis and it is a difficult issue.

"But I believe there is a will on both sides of the Irish Sea to have it resolved."

Lord Empey added: "I believe also that the United Kingdom Government isn't going to put up any border. The only threat of a border is actually Brussels forcing the Irish Republic to put up a border and we all know politically that is impossible for them to do so.

"So therefore we have to look at alternative mechanisms."

The peer also pointed out that despite the UK's membership of the bloc, it was still running an £80bn deficit with the EU.

"There's something seriously wrong with how we are doing business if we are £1.5bn at a loss on trade week in week out," he said.

Stressing the need to move on from the referendum result, he added: "It's done, we get on with it. Trying to rehash the thing is merely going to create further division and leave us with no prospect of a future."

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