Hopes of soft border ‘illogical’ and ‘foolish’, Nick Clegg says

Ex-deputy British PM hopes government will be forces to clarify issue during election

Nick Clegg maintains that hopes of a soft border are ‘illogical nonsense’ and that the UK government is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

Nick Clegg maintains that hopes of a soft border are ‘illogical nonsense’ and that the UK government is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

 

Former deputy British prime minister Nick Clegg maintains that hopes of a soft border are ‘illogical nonsense’ and that the UK government is trying to have its cake and eat it too.

“I think why the UK government is being so foolish in all of this is that they are trying to have their cake and it, the claim that you can somehow create a border and yet not have a border — that is just taking people for fools.

“It’s one of the many things I hope the government will be forced to clarify in the weeks ahead,” the former Liberal Democrat leader told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

“Talk is cheap, talk is easy, it’s easy to say we’ll do our best, we’ll try to get the best possible deal, obviously try to ensure there isn’t a hard border.

“It’s just rhetoric — at the end of the day there is a hard cold reality which is that the UK government, the Conservative government has chosen, by the way, they didn’t need to do this, they have chosen, not only to leave the political institutions of the EU, they have chosen to do it in the most uncompromising form possible, by quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union.

“You cannot administer a border which is inside a customs union with a neighbour that is outside it without having meaningful checks at the border. It is illogical nonsense.

“I’m always surprised at the level of surprise from Conservative MPs in London when they throw their hands up in horror at what are, frankly, totally logical assertions being made by our EU partners.

“If you want to do what the government has itself claimed, which is to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK (3 million of them), and indeed many British citizens in the EU.

“If you want to have the exact same benefits outside the single market as inside it, you can’t have that unless you all obey the same rules. They’re going to have to at some stage bite the bullet and admit to the John Redwoods and the Boris Johnsons, and the Michael Goves and those other slightly swivel-eyed Brexiteers that the promise that you can somehow sever yourself entirely from a level playing field from the continent of which we are geographically and techtonically apart is not possible.

“I hope that one of the silver linings of this election is that the government will now be put under pressure to explain itself exactly on these kinds of issues.”

He added that the chronology of the talk is less important than the content when it comes to Brexit negotiations.