Blow for Theresa May as Ireland demands UK sea border after Brexit
Dublin ministers are pushing for the Irish Sea to become the post-Brexit border with the UK in a fresh headache for Theresa May.
The proposal would leave the 310-mile border between Ireland and Northern Ireland open but put a major barrier between the province and the rest of the UK.
The suggestion has drawn anger from the Democratic Unionist Party - which is propping up the Prime Minister’s minority government as part of a £1.5bn deal.
British ministers had suggested the use of surveillance cameras and other technology would be able to help police the border between the north and the south of the island.
But new Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has rejected the proposal - arguing any reduction in border freedom could jeopardise the hard-won peace process.
The Republic's government would prefer customs and immigration checks to be located at ports and airports instead - making the perimeter of the island the effective new border between the UK and the EU.
Mr Coveney told a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers last week: “What we do not want to pretend is that we can solve the problems of the border on the island of Ireland through technical solutions like cameras and pre-registration and so on. That is not going to work.
“Any barrier or border on the island of Ireland in my view risks undermining a very hard-won peace process and all of the parties in Northern Ireland, whether they are unionist or nationalist, recognise that we want to keep the free movement of people and goods and services and livelihoods.”
'SHOULD KNOW BETTER'
But DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr said the only people discussing a sea border were “people who should know better”.
He added: “Quite frankly, if the EU wants a hard border that’s what they’ll get. If they want to make this difficult then the only people who are going to suffer are people in the south of Ireland.”
Mr Coveney became foreign minister in Dublin last month after Leo Varadkar replaced Enda Kenny as prime minister.
A Whitehall source told The Times: “There is a new Taoiseach and a new foreign minister and they’re stamping their authority.
“We’re being as positive as we can but it’s true to say that their attitude has hardened.”
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