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Border crisis is Theresa May's fault

The figure who must take most of the blame for the total confusion and enormous apprehension which exists over future arrangements on the Irish border is undoubtedly the outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May.

We know it is `inconceivable' that the existing relaxed structures could be kept in place after a British withdrawal from the European Union because Mrs May told us so during a high profile visit to Belfast less than a year ago.

She was speaking as Home Secretary, but within a matter of days the narrow and unexpected overall victory for the leave campaign in the EU referendum set in motion a chain of events which catapulted Mrs May into Downing Street.

As she pushed on towards achieving a particularly aggressive form of Brexit, it became essential that she should clarify her position on all the implications for Ireland, north and south.

However, she has only managed one short subsequent trip to Belfast last July, shortly after becoming premier, when she spoke briefly to the BBC but avoided questions from other journalists.

Her comment that `no one wants to return to the borders of the past' was generally regarded as meaningless, as she declined to offer the slightest detail on her intentions over an issue of vital importance to all traditions in Ireland.

Most observers have concluded that Mrs May plainly does not know and probably does not care what is going to unfold along the only land border between the EU and a post-Brexit UK

She has already effectively abandoned Scotland, which together with Northern Ireland voted decisively with the remain side in the referendum, and appears entirely focussed on securing her anticipated comfortable majority in the next House of Commons by brushing aside the feeble Labour challenge in England and Wales.

The prime minister did not even offer a single reference to the collapse of the Stormont institutions when she ensured the suspension of our inter-party talks by calling a general election at a crucial stage in the negotiations last month.

Mrs May would do well to consider yesterday's measured intervention by the former taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who warned that customs checks between Britain and Ireland had now become inevitable, and imaginative thinking was urgently required if dire consequences over trade are to be averted.

At the very least, she should take the opportunity to indicate whether she envisages that her new policies are going to be enforced along the Irish border, or at our ports or through some even more unfathomable scheme.

It has all the makings of a complete shambles, creating the circumstances in which Mrs May's legacy could yet turn out to be the final break-up of the UK.

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