Bruton warns of passport controls at Border if UK leaves EU

Former taoiseach says ‘Brexit’ would weaken European Union

John Bruton: “We would lose the common EU framework for the whole island that has contributed so much to peace and is specifically acknowledged in the Belfast Agreement.”  Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

John Bruton: “We would lose the common EU framework for the whole island that has contributed so much to peace and is specifically acknowledged in the Belfast Agreement.” Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

A departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union could lead to the introduction of passport controls within the island of Ireland for the first time and the possible re-establishment of customs posts along the Border, former taoiseach John Bruton has warned.

In a speech last night, he said it would be a “huge blow” to the EU if voters in the UK opted to leave. He maintained a “Brexit” would have significant implications for Northern Ireland while the Republic would also be affected. He was addressing the annual dinner of the council of the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Following any decision to withdraw from the EU, customs posts would have to be erected along the Border again, unless the UK could negotiate a special trade deal similar to those in place with Switzerland or Norway, he said.

“That would disrupt lives and it would disrupt business. Many firms process raw materials originating in the Republic here, and vice versa. All that would have to be subject to customs inspection, a costly and intrusive process.”

Mr Bruton said if the UK “wanted to restrict immigration from across the land border, it would have to institute passport controls within Ireland . . . something that never happened in history before.

“Smuggling would undergo a revival and endless profit-making opportunities would be opened up for subversives and organised criminals.”

Mr Bruton also questioned where money would be found to replace existing EU payments to farmers in the North as well as EU rural development funds, particularly given the existing difficulties in applying UK budget limits.

The former taoiseach also said people in the Republic would also be affected by a departure of the UK from the EU. “We would lose a friend in Europe if the UK leaves. We would lose the common EU framework for the whole island that has contributed so much to peace and is specifically acknowledged in the Belfast Agreement.”