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Ireland and Britain’s special relationship could lead to joint border, says Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster

There are fears the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could become a 'hard border' [Picture: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty]
There are fears the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could become a ‘hard border’ [Picture: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty]
NORTHERN Ireland’s First Minister has revealed her backing for joint Anglo-Irish border controls at Irish ports and airports.

Arlene Foster said that the prospect of a cooperative Irish and British effort to enforce a border control plan would have to be agreed to by both Governments as well as other EU member states.

She revealed that the Governments of Ireland and Britain had been in discussions over how best to strengthen the borders of the Common Travel Area (CTA).

The CTA is an open borders initiative encompassing the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The concept of a joint effort between Ireland and Britain to strengthen border controls was first raised by Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire in an interview to the Guardian in October.

“Our focus is to strengthen the external border of the common travel area, building on the strong collaboration with our Irish partners,” he said at the time.

Arlene Foster revealed that the talks between Ireland and Britain had been underway since before Britain’s vote to leave the EU in June.

Speaking on BBC’s Hardtalk programme, she said that Governments of Ireland and Britain were in discussions “long before the European Union exit vote was taken”.

“I think it’s a very interesting concept. It’s a way to deal with a very particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, in terms of history and geography,” she said.

Following Brexit, Northern Ireland will be the only area of the UK to share a border with the European Union.

This has raised fears that an uncontrolled border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could be turned into a ‘hard border’.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster with Taoiseach Enda Kenny [Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty]
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster with Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty)
“How do we protect ourselves as two islands against terrorism?” said Mrs Foster. “How do we protect ourselves in other ways?

“And the way they were talking about was using the Common Travel Area and having that special relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland recognised by them working very closely together.”

Such an action would have to be agreed to not only by the Governments of Ireland and Britain but also by other EU member states.

“Of course this will have to be accepted by the other member states in Europe,” Mrs Foster added.

“This is the trick, as it were, because we can’t enter into negotiations around any of this until Article 50 is triggered and the Republic’s Government are very keen to point out that they are not in negotiations at the moment, they’re just in discussions.”

Mrs Foster also revealed that lorries having to stop for daily customs checks at the border was not a prospect.

The leave campaign’s “take back control” slogan was perhaps the most publicised of the Brexit campaign, but Mrs Foster rejected the notion that joint Irish and British border controls would contradict that.

“It doesn’t, because you would only do it, in the terms that we’re talking about, if we had full disclosure and openness between the two sovereign governments as to how it was going to work,” she said.

Kelly Bar – MPU – January

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