Brexit: Dublin dismisses Javid's call to use technology at border

Taoiseach frustrated UK is revisiting things already rejected and which will not work

The Irish Government moved quickly on Sunday to dismiss claims by the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid that existing technology could ensure no hard border in Ireland once the UK leaves the European Union.

A spokesman for Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the details of the technology had "never been shared with the Irish government or the EU," amid signs of frustration in Dublin that emerging British proposals for replacing the backstop were simply a return to the idea of technological solutions that have previously been ruled out by the EU.

Speaking today on RTE's This Week programme, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was "very frustrating that we're going back to this idea of technology".

He said this option had been examined in detail and was found not to prevent a hard border.


“They’re talking about revisiting things that have already been rejected and that’s not going to work,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said “of course we will listen to what the prime minister [Theresa May] has to say” but there was no sign of any softening of Dublin’s approach to the British desire for a watering down of the backstop, which guarantees that there will be no hard border whatever the outcome of the EU-UK trade negotiations in the future.

On suggestions of a time-limit to the backstop, as some in London have suggested, Mr Varadkar said: “You can’t have an insurance policy that expires just at the time when you might need it.”

‘Existing technology’

In a BBC interview this morning, Mr Javid said the UK Border Force, which comes under his Home Office department, had shown him “existing technology” that could be used to avoid a hard border.

“I asked Border Force months ago to advise me, to look at what alternative arrangements are possible, and they’ve shown me quite clearly you can have no hard border on the island of Ireland and you can use existing technology. It’s perfectly possible,” Mr Javid said.

However, Irish sources pointed out that Border Force does not police the border in Ireland – a role for which the PSNI is responsible.

Recently the former PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde warned dissident republicans would exploit a hard border and seek a return to violence.

Irish sources added Mr Javid's intervention only demonstrated the lack of understanding about Northern Ireland prevalent even at the highest levels of the British cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok is to lead a delegation to visit the border in Ireland on Monday before meeting Mr Coveney for talks and a dinner in Dublin on Monday evening.

Mr Blok's visit follows a visit to the border on Friday by the German justice minister Katarina Barley.

Mr Coveney will be in Brussels during the day on Monday where he will meet with other foreign ministers on Middle East issues.

Mr Coveney met with the British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on the margins of an EU meeting in Romania on Friday and discussed Brexit matters in an exchange aides described as "frank and honest".

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times