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Rethink needed on Border Force passport rules

While it is not entirely clear what border arrangements will be in place by the time the UK leaves the European Union, the British government has moved to recruit hundreds of Border Force officers for Britain and Northern Ireland.

The mass recruitment drive has led to concerns over the implications in relation to the Irish border amid fears that checks could be introduced in the event of a hard Brexit.

In some respects it is not surprising that the British government is organising staff ready to deal with the movement of people and goods in the post-Brexit period.

Indeed, faced with the possibility of huge traffic jams at ports and lengthy queues at airports, the government has a responsibility to put measures in place to cope with a changed landscape.

Aside from concerns over the Irish border, there is a another, quite fundamental, issue which has caused deep unease in Northern Ireland.

As the Irish News revealed on Monday, the 21 Border Force posts based in Belfast are only open to people holding British passports.

This means that someone who lives in the north and holds an Irish passport is barred from applying for any of these jobs.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, people born in Northern Ireland have dual citizenship and can choose to be British or Irish citizens or both.

We are told that these jobs are 'reserved posts' which means only UK nationals may be employed.

It is not clear why these positions, which are essentially law enforcement roles carrying out customs checks on people and goods, need to be regarded as reserved occupations.

By contrast, the PSNI does not have similar passport requirements and only asks that applicants are able to work permanently in the UK.

If someone holding an Irish passport can be a police officer it is difficult to understand why they cannot be a Border Force officer.

The British government needs to look again at its rules and think carefully about the message being sent out in Northern Ireland.

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