Smyth rejects suggestion of withdrawal of Border security as Brexit ‘penalty’
NI Secretary says threat to policing co-operation in event of Brexit delay ‘unacceptable’
Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smyth has rejected suggestions that the United Kingdom might withdraw cross-Border security co-operation as a penalty if the UK’s exit from the European Union is delayed.
“Any threat on withdrawing security co-operation with Ireland is unacceptable,” Mr Smith said on social media. “This is not in the interest of NI or the union.”
The claim came in exchanges between The Spectator magazine and a senior Number 10 figure, who is believed to be British prime minister Boris Johnson’s top aide, Dominic Cummings.
In an email, the source wrote: “We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go to the front of the queue for future cooperation – cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences. Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue.” The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth said that the source had made it clear that defence and security co-operation “will inevitably be affected”.
However, the chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PSNI), Mark Lindsay, said policing and security “should not be used as political footballs”, adding that “security co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána has never been better”.
“We have a republican terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland that is rated ‘severe’ and all of our efforts are focused on thwarting the murderous plans of those who want nothing more than to kill our members.”
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said on Tuesday that any demand to keep Northern Ireland inside the customs union after Brexit would be “beyond crazy”.
The European Union is “not interested in a negotiated outcome”, she said, adding that Mr Johnson had “flushed out Dublin’s real intentions to trap Northern Ireland in the EU customs union forever where Dublin rather than the United Kingdom’s elected representatives would be in the driving seat.We will not accept any such ultimatum or outcome.”
Saying people are “exasperated” by London’s behaviour, Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill said the language being adopted by it, and by the Democratic Unionist Party is “inflammatory”.
“[The] DUP are on the wrong side of the argument,” she said. “The bottom line is that the North can’t withstand being excluded from the customs union and the single market, that’s what needs to be protected.”
The Alliance Party’s Brexit spokesman, Stephen Farry MLA, said the UK government was “desperate to clutch at any straw to shift blame, rather than deal with the consequences of their position”.
“A deal of course remains possible but the UK side does need to face up to the implications of their decision to Brexit, particularly for Northern Ireland,” he said.