Northern Ireland news

Terrorism and smuggling warning from top PSNI officer over Brexit

Pro-IRA graffiti which appeared recently in Derry. Picture by Aoife Moore, Press Association

ONE of the PSNI's most senior officers has warned Brexit could provide a recruitment "opportunity" for the New IRA and other dissident paramilitary groups.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs was speaking in a wide-ranging examination of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit by BBC Panorama last night.

"We know that the New IRA and other groups continue to recruit people and we believe that Brexit provides an opportunity for them to encourage people to recruit," he said.

He added that currently, the PSNI does not see any upsurge in recruitment or violence being driven specifically by Brexit.

Mr Mairs also explained the fears that potential price differences on the border created by tariffs could create "new opportunities" for organised crime groups to exploit.

"We would see, traditionally, connections between some of those groups and more violent groups.

"... The potential impact of a no-deal on the economy in Northern Ireland is significant and that would, in our view, present potentially significant security concerns moving into the future."

It supports the warning of international security and counter-terrorism consultants any scenario flowing from the 2016 referendum will be `lose/lose' for Northern Ireland, with an upsurge of paramilitary violence.

Transformational Policing Associates (TPA) told the Irish News in January in its assessment of No Deal, Major Renegotiation, Another Referendum, a General Election and Cancel Brexit and the possible protest and disorder associated with each "none of these scenarios (forecast) well".

The programme also saw Transport Secretary Chris Grayling accused of trying to "silence" road hauliers from raising concerns about a no-deal Brexit.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents freight companies, said Mr Grayling threatened in a voicemail to stop involving the organisation after they communicated with the press following a private briefing with the Transport Secretary last August.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said he felt Mr Grayling was "trying to silence an industry that's trying to help Government guide them".

"My sense of that message was - either shut up or you don't engage. You either play ball with us or you won't be part of the negotiations on behalf of the industry."

Discussions with the government have continued after the voicemail message was sent and the Department for Transport told the programme the RHA "has been heavily involved in our EU exit preparatory work and we will continue to involve them at every stage of our planning".

The documentary also featured the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Philip Rycroft, who warned "everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown".

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