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Britain proposing a ‘telepathic’ rather than ‘frictionless’ Border

Former northern secretary warns UK Brexit policy opens back door to ‘Jihadi entryism’

Former northern secretary Peter Hain: “The Border looks like becoming just another bargaining chip in the negotiations with Brussels.” Photograph: Eric Luke

The British government has been accused of seeking to create not a “frictionless” but a “telepathic” Border.

Former Labour northern secretary Lord (Peter) Hain on Tuesday is expected to warn in the House of Commons that the British government policy on Brexit is threatening the “hard-won peace” in Northern Ireland.

He will also warn of potential “Jihadi entryism” through the “back door” of the Border.

“What is proposed is not a Brexit for the United Kingdom nor even for Britain. It is a Brexit for the ideological hard right and we go down that path at our great peril, especially for Northern Ireland and the hard-won peace and democratic process which, tragically, this government seems so airily causal about and so ignorantly indifferent to.”

He is expected to be particularly scathing of the British government argument that 80 per cent of business trade can pass across the Border without any customs checks.

“So there’ll be no Border checks and indeed no ‘physical Border infrastructure . . . for any purpose’. Meaning not just no Border security posts, but no CCTV cameras and no number-plate recognition equipment. None of the earlier-promised fairy-tale technology replacing customs officers. Not so much a frictionless Border as a telepathic one.”

Border problem

Lord Hain is expected to add that, in effect, the British government is saying to the European Union that if there is to be a hard Border between the North and South it will be the EU who is creating it not London.

“But cynically dumping the Border problem on Brussels leaves one obvious problem for the advocates of the hardest of Brexits: how to reconcile the demand that ‘we take control of our borders’ while leaving open the one that is closest to us,” he will say.

Lord Hain is expected to add: “Isn’t the truth that the hard Brexit Britain of the prime minister’s dreams is in fact leaving open the back door through the Irish Border to illegal, uncontrollable migration and easy Jihadi entryism?

“The government invites us to believe that this long, winding and porous external EU customs frontier can be safely left unpoliced. Smugglers, customs fraudsters, people traffickers and terrorists will behave impeccably out of respect for Irish solidarity. Small companies accounting for 80 per cent of cross-Border business don’t matter. Large ones will nobly abide by all the rules and standards required of the Single Market, and voluntarily pay all their tariff duties.

“And in the much-vaunted new free-trade nirvana that awaits post-Brexit Britain with no Irish Border controls, US chicken, New Zealand lamb, Australian beef, Chinese steel and Indian cars can be imported into Belfast, sent a couple of hours down the road to the ports of Dublin or Cork and exported tariff-free to France or Germany.


“Surely this is nonsense-on-stilts? But my major concern is not simply pious platitudes by ministers on the Border. It is that the Border looks like becoming just another bargaining chip in the negotiations with Brussels.”

Lord Hain is expected to support Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in urging Britain to remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market.

“In my view the only way of resolving the Border conundrum is for Northern Ireland to be within the same Customs Union and Single Market as the Republic: either Northern Ireland alone or preferably the whole of the UK.”