Top EU official says Northern Ireland hard border 'pretty obvious' under no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
22nd January 2019

It is "pretty obvious" that no-deal Brexit will lead to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the European Commission's chief spokesperson has said.

Number 10 said Theresa May would "do everything we can to avoid a hard border".

In comments that appeared to go much further than previous public remarks by EU officials, Margaritis Schinas told reporters that the bloc would "inevitably" have to respond to Britain quitting the bloc without an agreement.

Irish Prime Mininster Leo Varadkar has repeatedly denied making plans for fresh customs checks on the historically-sensitive frontier in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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But Mr Schinas said: "If you'd like to me to push me and speculate on what might happen in a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it's pretty obvious: you will have a hard border.

"And our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and everything that we have been doing for years with our tools, instruments and programmes will have to take, inevitably, into account this fact.

"So, of course we are for peace; of course we stand behind the Good Friday Agreement but... a no-deal scenario, that's what it [would] entail."

The remarks came just a day after Mrs May vowed to press the EU for fresh changes to the Northern Ireland backstop element of her Brexit deal, which would see the UK tied to the EU's customs union and parts of the single market in a bid to avoid a hard border if no other solution can be found.

But she told MPs: "All of us agree that as we leave the European Union we must fully respect the Belfast agreement and not allow the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or indeed a border down the Irish sea."

Pressed on Mr Schinas's comments today, the Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "We will do everything we can to avoid a hard border."