No 10 says ‘more work’ needed on Border

Kate Hoey accused of ‘taking diplomacy lessons from Donald Trump’

Downing Street has acknowledged “more work” needs to be done on the future of the Border ahead of next month’s European Union summit in Brussels.

The British prime minister Theresa May’s official spokesman was responding to a question about Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney’s statement on Monday.

Mr Coveney said the 27 remaining EU member-states agreed that Brexit talks cannot move on to the future trading relationship until there was more progress on the Border.

The spokesman declined to comment on Labour MP Kate Hoey’s suggestion that Ireland will have to pay for any Border which emerges after Brexit.


“We’re not the ones who are going to be putting up the physical border. If it ends up with a no deal we won’t be putting up the border — they’ll have to pay for it, because it doesn’t need to happen,” Ms Hoey told the BBC.

Ms Hoey, who campaigned to leave the EU and is a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster, said Dublin was taking an unduly negative approach to the problem.

“There are ways of doing this. Why don’t the Irish government actually become more positive about this and start looking at solutions with their closest neighbour and closest partner?

“After all, we are a friend of the Republic of Ireland, the relations have never been as good. And yet on this issue it seems like they are more concerned to keep the rest of the EU satisfied than actually looking at concrete positive proposals,” she said.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain criticised Ms Hoey’s comments, adding that the only way to prevent a return to the borders of the past was for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK to remain in the customs union and the single market.

“With her suggestion that Ireland will have to pay for any border, Kate Hoey seems to have been taking diplomacy lessons from Donald Trump. It really is astonishing how much damage Brexit is already doing to our country’s reputation.

“Even our closest friends, Ireland, are now becoming the target of unhinged attacks from hard Brexit cheerleaders. The cold, hard reality is very clear: outside of the customs union and the single market, there will have to be a hard border of some kind on the island of Ireland,” he said.

The threat that the issue of the Border could prevent Brexit talks from moving on to the next stage in December has heightened tensions between Dublin and London.

Pro-Brexit newspapers have become more strident in their criticism of Ireland's approach in recent days, with the Daily Mail on Monday accusing the Taoiseach of belligerence.

The paper warned in an editorial that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and European Council President Donald Tusk were misreading the political situation in Britain by putting pressure on Ms May to compromise on the Border.

“Are these politicians deluded? Do they seriously imagine that Mrs May would be prepared to destroy the integrity of the UK by leaving part of it effectively still in the EU after Brexit?

“Even in normal times this would be unthinkable. But when the government relies for its majority on the staunchly loyalist Democratic Unionist Party, it’s simply impossible,” the paper said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times