Taoiseach's border checks comments sparks anger as Sinn Féin warns against 'political vandalism'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said checks on goods and animals may occur "near" the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Paul Ainsworth

SINN Féin has described the potential introduction of customs checks at the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit as "political vandalism".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told members of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce at its annual dinner in Dublin on Thursday evening that such checks would occur at ports and airports where possible if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, but added: "Some may take place near the border. We are working out the details of this with the European Commission."

He said he did not expect "significant change" to medical or food supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit but the process of applying tariffs to goods coming into the Republic would be "expensive and bureaucratic for business".

His comments came as the Republic's Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, told RTÉ that the government "cannot allow" checks to take place at the border itself if that presented a "significant security risk".

Defending the backstop that would ensure north-south regulatory alignment post-Brexit, Ms McEntee said: "The backstop not only removes the threat of the border, it protects the all-Ireland economy, co-operation between north and south, and the peace process."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said yesterday that "none of us want to see any infrastructure at the border".

"That has been the point made from London, that's been the point made from here in Belfast, from ourselves, and indeed from Dublin as well."

She added: "The way to deal with all of that is to get a sensible deal, and that is what we are still looking to do - to get a deal to leave the European Union that works for everybody."

But Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald described any "hardening" of the border as "completely unacceptable".

"It is political vandalism which grossly undermines the Good Friday Agreement and we cannot allow it to be forced upon our country because of the intransigence of right-wing Brexiteers within the Tory party supported by the DUP," she said.

“Any impediment to trade and movement on this island will damage border communities, harm the economy, and undermine the architecture of the peace process. Such checks should not be countenanced by the government and the taoiseach's comments last night are extremely unhelpful."

Ms McDonald called for Mr Varadkar to insist on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop as the "minimum to protect our interests and prevent a hard border", adding: "The EU has already confirmed that a reunified Ireland will be entitled to automatic re-entry and the reconciliation of our country is the obvious and clearly sustainable solution to the problem of the border."

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