Enda Kenny: Risk of violence if Brexit border talks fail

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned of a possible return to cross border criminality and even armed conflict if Brexit negotiations fail to take account of the island of Ireland.

Mr Kenny says that while the UK is opting for a hard Brexit, many of their intentions remain unclear until after Article 50 is triggered next month.

He says “new ways” of having relationships will have to be thought out or the consequences could be serious.

“I have made this point very clearly, in that any semblance of a return of what they deem a hard border or borders of the past brings serious issues for this country and I don’t mean just in terms of trade or the economy, but going back to before, criminality and even armed conflict,” said Mr Kenny.

“I don’t want to be alarmist about it but this is a political challenge here.

“We know that Britain intends to leave the single market, we know that Britain will look for particular trading relations, that position [on Northern Ireland] is unclear yet because in the Lancaster speech given by the prime minister it remains open.”

“When we negotiated things in the past, they said that things could not be done and I refer to the fact that we now have a seamless transfer across.

“But obviously we have got to have new ways of doing things, we have got to have new outcomes because it doesn’t just affect the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but it has global implications.

“But also the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is one that is going to be discussed.”

British prime minister Theresa May insisted that EU leaders want to get on with Brexit negotiations, and MPs should not delay the start of discussions.

Ms May has rejected numerous amendments to the bill which will trigger the UK’s departure from the EU.

“This house has spoken,” said Ms May. “Now is not the time to obstruct the democratically expressed view of the British people. It is time to get on with leaving the EU.”

MPs overwhelmingly backed the legislation last week, and Ms May warned against blocking it during its final stages.

Back home, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said he gets annoyed when he hears Ms May say there will be no return to borders of the past.

“It annoys me when I hear that soundbyte, since she loves talking in slogans and soundbytes,” said Mr Varadkar. “She always has this line, that we’re not going back to the borders of the past.

“That implies that we’re going to have some sort of borders for the future and, you know, I don’t want to have any borders on our island.

“We got rid of them and the peace process has been a success in part because there is no physical border of any sort.”

Mr Varadkar said he agrees with former taoiseach John Bruton’s statement that if there is a minister for Brexit, then the other ministers who have a key role to play in this can take their eye off the ball.

Meanwhile, the British fishing industry’s desire to exclude foreign vessels from its fisheries zone after Britain leaves the EU poses a “fundamental threat” to Ireland’s fishing sector, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has warned.

The sector in the UK wants to see a “pulling up of the drawbridge” to ensure non-UK fishermen will no longer have access to the country’s waters.

In that scenario, fish stocks will be “theirs and only theirs for the taking”, Mr Creed told a gathering of fishing industry representatives.

“Such an extreme outcome would be a fundamental threat to the well-being of the Irish fishing industry,” he said.

“On average, 36% of Irish landings are taken from UK waters. However, for some of our most important fisheries, the figure is substantially higher.”

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