Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warns of army border patrols under no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
25th January 2019

The army may need to be deployed to secure the Irish border if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, Ireland’s Prime Minister has warned.

Leo Varadkar said the army could be needed to back-up border control officers under a no-deal Brexit
PA Images

In his strongest intervention yet on the issue Leo Varadkar said security personnel would be needed to protect customs posts, which he suggested would become a target for terror groups.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Varadkar also rammed home the EU’s position that the so-called backstop contained in Theresa May's Brexit deal the could not be watered down, despite protests from Tory euroscpetics and the DUP.

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The arrangement, which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent way can be found to maintain an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, has proven to be the major sticking point in winning over Brexiteer hardliners to Mrs May's deal.

But in a warning to UK ministers and MPs, the Taoiseach told Bloomberg that a no-deal Brexit could "involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up".

"The problem with that in the context of Irish politics and history is those things become targets and we've already had a certain degree of violence in the last few weeks," he added.

Mr Varadkar also insisted that Ireland had already compromised on the issue in order to placate ministers’ demands and accused the UK of "victimising" its neighbour.

He added: “The UK wanted a review clause in the backstop and we agreed to that, the UK wanted a UK-wide element, so why is it the country that is being victimised is the one that's always asked to give?”

The Fine Gael leader also threw out the suggestion that technology could yet prove the answer to keeping an open frontier without needing the backstop.

“I have yet to have anyone demonstrate to me a technology that can look into a truck and tell me whether there’s hormones in the beef or not,” he continued.

The warnings come after the European Commission’s chief spokesman said the need for controls under a hard Brexit was “pretty obvious”, although he later insisted the bloc was “determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border”.

Labour MP Jo Stevens, of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign,  said the Prime Minister’s refusal to rule out no-deal was “poking a hornet's nest”.

“It's awful that two and half years of chaos and incompetence has potentially led to a situation where army personnel are being deployed and risked, and physical infrastructure including surveillance cameras are being set up,” she said.

“That's a hard border and a betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement.”