Leaders: No plans for hard border with the North

A hard border involving military and customs check points in the North has been categorically ruled out by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister Theresa May in the wake of Brexit.

Mr Kenny yesterday signalled for the first time that measures to monitor the movements of people and goods over the border could involve modern technology.

Ms May noted that the borders between Ireland and Britain would be strengthened, through a common use or sharing of air passenger data.

Following his first face-to-face meeting with Ms May at 10 Downing St, Mr Kenny pointedly dodged questions on the possibility of a United Ireland.

The leaders met for over an hour and discussed trade, the peace process, and the next steps following the Brexit vote, including the benefits of the common travel area.

Mr Kenny last week said it would be unacceptable to return to the days of a hard border from Dundalk to Derry.

Ms May, speaking in the North this week, said nobody wanted that. However, she left the door open on the issue by suggesting some sort of border was needed in the North when Britain eventually leaves the EU.

Mr Kenny struck down any doubts on the issue yesterday.

“We are in agreement that we don’t wish to see any return to the borders of the past on the island of Ireland,” he said in a statement after the meeting.

Mr Kenny told reporters afterwards: “A hard border in normal circumstances means customs posts and customs checks on a very regular basis.

“There will be no return to the hard border of the past. The hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the past included towers, obviously military equipment, for many reasons.

“So obviously, I do not favour, I would not agree to a hard border with a whole range of customs posts and neither does the prime minister.”

Mr Kenny, meanwhile, also signalled for the first time what now is being examined as an alternative to monitoring the movement of goods or people across the border in the North.

“There are other ways of dealing with modern technology in terms of checking trade,” he said.

Leaders: No plans for hard border with the North

Asked by the Irish Examiner if this included a model similar to that between the US and Canada, which involves automatic number plate recognition, he said: “Yeah, I think these are things that need to be looked at creatively and imaginatively.”

Mr Kenny refused to answer questions about whether Brexit had now made the possibility of a united Ireland more of a reality.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar raised the issue last week when he said it would be a reality during his lifetime.

In what was viewed as a cordial opening meeting between Mr Kenny and Ms May, they both agreed to maintain the “close relationship”.

Ms May said there was a “strong will” to preserve the free movement of people between Britain and Ireland.


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