Northern Ireland news

Dominic Raab says he was advised not to stop at border during visit

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab. Picture by Andrew Matthews, Press Association

FORMER Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said he was advised not to stop at the border during a brief trip to the north in November.

The Tory MP told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster yesterday that the PSNI escorted him along the frontier during last year's short fact-finding mission.

But he said he was told not to stop and speak to people living in the area in case his visit was 'hijacked' by politicians.

When asked about the trip by Labour MP Conor McGinn, Mr Raab said he spent the "best part of a morning" on the border, looked at customs checks at Warrenpoint Harbour in Co Down and the Port of Larne in Co Antrim and met the leaders of the north's main political parties at Stormont.

During a tense exchange, Mr McGinn, who is from Camlough in south Armagh, asked Mr Raab if he had stopped to talk to anyone living on the frontier to ask how they would be affected by Brexit.

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The Tory MP replied: "I think the advice was to avoid what would inevitably end up being a political scrum because you'd get local political representatives trying to hijack that".

Mr Raab said he was keen to visit the border "properly and not just do a fly-by or a political 'grip and grin'".

"We went the night before and I toured the border with the PSNI from Crossmaglen to Newry – so looked at police stations, the border crossings and really got a sense of what it meant in practice," he said.

Mr Raab praised the "beautiful rolling hills along the border".

"I met with Newry Chamber of Commerce because I wanted to understand the small business aspects of it. I also wanted to understand the international trade and the trade both ways which is why I went to Warrenpoint Port," he said.

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