Train passengers travelling across the border may face onboard passport checks under worst-case scenario hard Brexit plans being drawn up by Iarnród Éireann.
The national rail service confirmed that the plans are being examined as part of a number of options amid ongoing concerns over the continuing Brexit stand-off.
As a fresh row broke out in Brussels between EU chiefs and pro-Brexit British MEPs and as a cross-border registry plan was mooted, an Iarnród Éireann spokesman said that if a hard border occurs “there may need to be checks”.
The spokesman said that, in recent months, Iarnród Éireann had been drawing up worst-case scenario plans if an EU-Britain border deal fails to be reached.
He said officials have been working with the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, which has experience of passport checks between European nations, Irish customs authorities, the passport office, and colleagues in the North about the impact of a hard Brexit.
While Iarnród Éireann is working on the basis that a soft border agreement will eventually be found, the spokesman said one of the potential hard Brexit scenarios being examined is an “onboard model if it comes to it” of passport and border checks.
Between Britain and France there is the Channel Tunnel where there are terminals at either end and people get off the trains [for checks] and back on, but we’re also considering an on-board model if it comes to it.
The comment mirrors public remarks by Iarnród Éireann commercial director Gerry Culligan, who told a recent British Irish Chamber of Commerce Brexit conference a hard border scenario could see passport checks at the beginning or end of a cross-border train journey, or officials due to use iPhone tablets later this year to give passengers onboard information also using the technology to check passports while on board.
News of the rail contingency plan comes after British prime minister Theresa May distanced herself from suggestions Irish citizens visiting the North may have to pre-register being arrival if no Brexit deal is agreed.
Meanwhile, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British MEPs clashed in Brussels. At the European Parliament, Mr Juncker said Britain will “regret” leaving the EU, rejected “cherry-picking”, and said the EU is “united when it comes to Ireland”.
He was labelled a “bully” by Ukip MEP Nigel Farage, who said he believes Ms May will leave without any deal if necessary.
Mr Juncker was also heckled by other pro-Brexit MEPs who shouted “it [the North’s border] is a British issue”.