Dick Roche says London needs to help unionists deal with 'psychological problem' that sea border creates

The Republic's former minister for European affairs Dick Roche said there was a 'psychological problem' with the notion of a sea border around Ireland

The British government needs greater input from unionists to help it find solutions to how the border will operate after Brexit, the Republic's former minister for European affairs has said.

Dick Roche said the technology-driven proposals previously tabled by the British government would not work and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was "absolutely correct" to voice concerns about the lack of alternative measures for ensuring a frictionless border if the UK leaves the customs union and single market.

Last month, Mr Varadkar insisted Dublin would not design a "border for Brexiteers" and said the onus was on London to find workable solutions for what will be an EU frontier dividing Ireland.

Mr Roche told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was impossible to secure the border.

"The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is an extraordinarily porous border and always has been," he said.

"We saw that at the height of the Troubles when there was British army presence there – it still didn't stop illegal activities along the border and we know that's a reality."

The former Fianna Fáil minister appeared to advocate a 'sea border' which would see immigration and customs checks at various gateways into Britain, such as ports and airports.

"There is a solution if everybody sits down and thinks in terms of an all-island solution where we continue to have free travel for persons and with very little disruption we can have free movement for goods," he said.

"It would involve checks for goods at the point of exit from the island – it doesn't need to involve the kind of disruptive intervention for free movement of persons."

The former minister for European affairs said future arrangements could mirror what currently happens when people from Ireland and Britain travel into Europe's Schengen Area, where free movement is permitted between 26 EU states.

He said unionists had a "psychological problem" with the 'sea border' concept that needed to be addressed.

"I think the unionist population and unionist politicians in Northern Ireland have to be brought into the discussions," he said.

"We still don't know what the British government's position is going to be and this is so frustrating – it's boiling frustration under the surface in the Republic because this is so critical for the well being of the entire island."

Mr Roche said it was "time for an outbreak of common sense in London".

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