Tony Blair warns of 'hard border disaster'
TONY Blair has said a deal between Britain and Ireland on the future of the border is the best way of limiting damage from Brexit.
The former prime minister told a meeting in the Republic of Europe's centre-right political groups that a "hard border" on the island would be a disaster.
"If the UK and the Republic were able to agree a way forward on the border, then we would have the best chance of limiting the damage. It is in the interests of us all, including our European partners, for this to happen," Mr Blair said.
He said getting consensus on the border will be crucial in the Brexit negotiations.
"Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening. However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support," Mr Blair said.
"A hard border between the countries would be a disaster and I am sure everyone will and must do all they can to avoid it."
Mr Blair said he was anxious that Brexit does not impair the Good Friday Agreement but warned it would have to be changed when the UK leaves Europe.
"There's bits of the Good Friday Agreement that specifically assume that Britain and the Irish Republic are in the EU, so obviously a change of language but I don't think a change of substance," he said.
Mr Blair said the biggest challenge with Brexit was for the EU as the border with Northern Ireland will become the frontier for Europe.
"If there's goodwill and a lot of ingenuity and innovation and maybe, I don't know, the use of technology and a lot of things, I think we can minimise disruption."
He said it was vital that the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain was maintained.
"Obviously it's important that though there will be difficult challenges with this that we safeguard that as much as possible and minimise the damage," he said.
Mr Blair added that he sees a consensus across the British political system to keep the open border arrangements between the Republic and Northern Ireland "as similar" to now.
"I think there's a real common desire, whatever issues there are in relation to Brexit, to make Northern Ireland a special case and make sure we do everything we possibly can to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace process and to protect that strong relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the UK going forward," he said.