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Opinion: British politicians should be careful with their claims

Sajid Javid told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday the UK has a `moral duty' to foot the bill. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

IT IS not an exaggeration to suggest that the Irish border has been probably the biggest obstacle to Theresa May's attempts to negotiate a deal which will allow Brexit to proceed. She of course did agree a deal with her counterparts in the EU but not one which she could get enough support for in Westminster.

Yesterday Sajid Javid, one of the contenders to replace Mrs May as leader of the Conservative party and therefore to become the next British prime minister, said that he had a solution to the problem – a technological solution.

Not only did he say this solution, firmly rejected in previous negotiations, will work, he put a figure for implementing it at 'hundreds of millions' which would under his proposal be paid for by the British government

While there was no response from the Irish government yesterday, in the past this suggestion has been treated with the utmost scepticism by all but those proposing it. Despite this 'solution' being proposed at various stages, no-one has ever explained just exactly how it would work.

As the battle for the Tory leadership gets underway it is important that any proposals brought forward by those standing are grounded in fact and not just sound bites to help them get elected or to garner support from the electorate.

That is particularly true when dealing with matters pertaining to Ireland. Important talks are currently taking place in a bid to restart the power-sharing executive at Stormont. Nothing should be said or done which might make that difficult process even more problematic.

Sadly some British politicians have felt it right to give opinions on matters such as historical inquiries with ill-founded comments. For instance Theresa May has in recent months made the claim that only people in the security forces were the subject of such inquiries.

This prompted Chief Constable John Boutcher to write to the British prime minister, telling her, in his own words, that

Mrs May "got it wrong". Mr Boutcher is in a position of authority to make such a judgement given that he is in charge of an investigation into the activities of the alleged army mole in the IRA known as stakeknife.

Mr Boutcher said he pointed out that any wrongdoing by members of the republican paramilitary group as well as allegations of illegality by the security forces would be investigated.

Karen Bradley also got things terribly wrong in a public statement, claiming that killings by soldiers and police could not be illegal. The current secretary of state later apologised for her remarks but they, like Mrs May's pronouncements, only served to make the difficult job of reconciliation even more hazardous.

The contenders to replace Mrs May have a duty to be careful in the claims that they make, particularly in relation to Ireland, and not make a fraught situation worse.

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