The Taoiseach has put it up to Britain by stating that the Government is “not going to design a border for the Brexiteers”.
Theresa May and Leo Varadkar
A tough-talking Leo Varadkar has said Theresa May’s government are “the ones who want a border” and has vowed that Ireland will not help develop something “we don’t believe should exist in the first place”.
Government sources have confirmed that Mr Varadkar is pushing for a “hard shell” or border around the entire island — and not a soft border between north and south. This would see tougher checkpoints for sea and air crossings.
Taking a hardline stance, Mr Varadkar said an economic border would be bad for both the Republic and the North and if Britain wants to go down that route it will be “up to them”.
Mr Varadkar hoped his comments would not ignite anger but added that “if anyone is angry it should be us”.
“It is the British and the Brexiteers who are leaving, so if anyone should be angry it’s us quite frankly,” he said.
In comments that infuriated the DUP, Mr Varadkar said: “What we are not going to do is design a border for the Brexiteers. They are the ones who want a border, it is up to them to say what it is, to say how it would work and to first of all, convince their own people, their own voters, that this is actually a good idea.
“We’re not going to be helping them to design some sort of border that we don’t believe should exist in the first place.”
The Taoiseach’s comments came after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney suggested that the Irish Sea effectively become the border with the UK after Brexit.
Mr Varadkar said that he was “absolutely on the same page when it comes to this issue”.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed later confirmed to the Irish Examiner that the idea of a sea border was “in currency” and was an option very much backed by Irish farmers. This is opposed to any type of a high-tech controlled soft border between the Republic and the North.
Separate Government sources confirmed it was “absolutely” the case that Ireland was now pursuing the option of a sea border or checks around the entire island after Brexit.
The plan would see traffic on the island of Ireland function as normal, as if the North was in the EU, sources said. Whatever borders then would instead be enforced at sea and air entry points. Customs and border checks would operate there.
Sources said the new checks would operate in the same way as people moving between Cherbourg in France and across the English Channel into Dover.
“It would be the same scenario across the Irish Sea,” said a source.
Furthermore, funds needed to enlarge checkpoints at ports and airports could also come from some of the so-called Brexit divorce bill which Britain must pay.
The Taoiseach said that while there is a political border between Ireland and the North, there has been no economic border since 1992.
“We’re not going to be doing that work for them because we don’t think there should be an economic border at all. That is our position,” said Mr Varadkar.
A spokesperson for Britain’s department for exiting the EU said: “It is our priority to deliver a practical solution, that recognises the unique social, political, and economic circumstances of the border.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.