No-deal Brexit will see hard border go up between Ireland and UK, warns EU president Juncker

EU chief says UK to blame for any fallout, as Brussels ‘did not invent the Brexit’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 22 September 2019 09:55
No-deal Brexit will see hard border go up between Ireland and UK, Jean-Claude Juncker says

Jean-Claude Juncker has warned there will have to be controls at the border in Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In an outspoken interview, the European Commission president said the UK would be to blame for any fallout for a chaotic exit for the bloc – as the EU “did not invent the Brexit”.

Mr Juncker said he wanted to reach an agreement with the UK but the EU had to protect the safety of its citizens.

The Irish border issue has been a major stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations, as Boris Johnson has demanded that the backstop – a contingency plan to prevent a hard border by keeping the UK aligned with many of Brussels’ rules – should be scrapped.

He told Sky News’s Ridge on Sunday: “We have to make sure that the interests of the European Union and of the internal market will be preserved.

“An animal entering Northern Ireland without border control can enter without any kind of control the European Union via the southern part of the Irish island.

“This will not happen. We have to preserve the health and the safety of our citizens.”

Meanwhile, foreign secretary Dominic Raab rejected any suggestion that Northern Ireland could have different customs and regulatory arrangements from the rest of the UK, telling BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “As a general overarching [arrangement] across all of the rules, no, of course that would be wrong.”

He added: “There couldn’t be a Northern Ireland-only backstop in its entirety in the way it was proposed previously. But on agri-food, and the question of the way the island of Ireland is already managed, that is something in a very discrete area where we can continue talking. But it must have the consent of the parties in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Raab said he was “confident there’s a deal to be done” and insisted the UK was making “good progress” in talks.

“I think what’s necessary now is for the EU to match some of the words that we heard from Jean-Claude Juncker with the detailed negotiations to remove the undemocratic backstop, to be clear we can transition to a best-in-class free trade agreement,” he said. “I think that would be good for the UK but also for the EU.”

Mr Juncker accused some unnamed MPs of “forgetting about the history” of the border in Ireland and fired off a warning that a no deal could see a return to the violence of the past.

The commission president said: “I don’t like a border because after the Good Friday Agreement, and this Good Friday Agreement has to be respected in all its parts, the situation in Ireland has improved.

“We should not play with this ... Sometimes I have to question that some people are forgetting about the history.”

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The senior Brussels official also sought to blame the UK for any fallout caused by a no-deal Brexit, amid frustration in EU circles over perceived attempts from the UK government to shift responsibility away from London.

He said: “The EU is in no way responsible for any kind of consequences entailed by the Brexit.

“That’s a British decision, a sovereign decision that we are respecting but don’t try... not you but to charge the European Union with the responsibility.

“The European Union is not leaving the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.”

Asked who is responsible, he said: “The United Kingdom. Because we did not invent the Brexit.

“We were never pleading in favour of any kind of Brexit. That’s a British decision and so it has to be dealt with in that way.”

His comments came after a meeting with Mr Johnson in Luxembourg last week, when the country’s prime minister Xavier Bettel left an empty podium for his UK counterpart at a press conference.

Mr Juncker said: “I don’t know if this is helpful. I rather consider that this was not very helpful but it’s his decision.”

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