Brexit: Labour MP draws Trump comparison for claiming Ireland would pay for border

Brexit-backing MP Kate Hoey says Ireland would have to pay for border infrastructure if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 27 November 2017 11:43 GMT
Kate Hoey on the Irish Border: 'We won’t be putting up the border, they’ll have to pay for it'

A Labour MP has drawn comparisons with Donald Trump for claiming the Republic of Ireland would have to pay for border infrastructure after Brexit if the UK leaves without a deal.

Brexit-backing MP Kate Hoey, who grew up in Northern Ireland, risked deepening the row over the Irish border question by claiming that Dublin would have to foot the bill for customs posts if Britain crashes out of the European Union without new trade agreements.

Her comments drew comparisons to the US President's boast that he would make Mexico pay for a wall along the border between the two nations.

Cambridge University classicist Professor Mary Beard tweeted: "When Kate Hoey on @BBCr4today talks about the Irish having to pay for putting up the border between N and S Ireland if there is to be one, she sounds to me dangerously like Mr Trump and Mexico."

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, a supporter of Open Britain campaign, said: “With her suggestion that Ireland will have to pay for any border, Kate Hoey seems to have been taking diplomacy lessons from Donald Trump.

“It really is astonishing how much damage Brexit is already doing to our country’s reputation. Even our closest friends, Ireland, are now becoming the target of unhinged attacks from hard Brexit cheerleaders.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake condemned the remarks as "completely delusional", adding: “Kate Hoey seems to think other people should pay for the mess she and other Brexiteers have caused.

“This is completely delusional, it’s what you’d expect from UKIP but not a Labour MP."

The threat of a "hard border" on the island of Ireland has become a key stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations, as the Republic has threatened to veto moves to trade talks unless Theresa May offers further reassurances that there will not be a hard border.

However the Prime Minister’s DUP allies, who are propping up her Government, said they will not tolerate any attempts to keep Northern Ireland within the EU customs union or single market.

Ms Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Why don’t the Irish Government actually become more positive about this and start looking at solutions with their closest neighbour and their closest partner.

“After all we are actually a friend of the Republic of Ireland, the relations have never been as good and yet on this issue it seems like they are more concerned to keep the rest of the EU satisfied than actually look at concrete positive proposals and I’m sure they are there.

“We are not the ones who are going to be putting up the physical border.

“If it ends up with a no deal, we won’t be putting up the border, they’ll have to pay for it because it doesn't need to happen.

“We have to accept there are a lot of politics going on here with what’s happening in the Irish Republic at the moment.”

Pressure is growing on Ms May to find a solution as she only has a week to meet a European deadline to make progress before trade talks can begin.

Ms Hoey said both sides should look to Switzerland and Norway, which are outside the EU but have close trade relationships with it, for solutions to the Irish border issue.

She said: "A lot of the technology, at the Swiss border and in Norway, is done actually away from the border - and of course the Prime Minister has said that she doesn't want cameras at the border."

The Prime Minister needs to get EU leaders to approve her withdrawal offer at a crunch meeting of the European Council on 4 December, where she will need to address the key issues of citizens rights, the Irish border and the so-called “divorce bill”.

If she is successful then talks will shift to the future trade relationship and settling the transition, likely to be between 2019 and 2021.

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