Northern Ireland border chaos is product of Government’s ‘incompetence and arrogance’, says David Miliband

Exclusive: Former Foreign Secretary says it is possible that Moscow was 'significantly involved' in the Brexit referendum

Thursday 07 December 2017 21:54
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David Miliband speaking to Charles Clarke at the Cambridge Literary Festival
David Miliband speaking to Charles Clarke at the Cambridge Literary Festival

The chaos surrounding Northern Ireland’s border in the Brexit negotiations is the “product of incompetence and arrogance” from the Government, David Miliband has told The Independent.

Discussing the drama surrounding the current Brexit negotiations, Mr Miliband said rhetoric may get Theresa May’s government through the week but there was a bigger picture about the chaos that Brexit was causing.

The former Foreign Secretary separately urged Theresa May to take Russian interference in UK politics seriously, claiming it was possible that Moscow was “significantly involved” in the Brexit referendum.

“The ‘Irish problem’ is actually a Brexit problem and especially a hard Brexit problem. Brexit has not been thought through and hard Brexit threatens the integrity of the UK. Words may get the Government through this week but there is a bigger lesson,” Mr Miliband told The Independent.

“Brexit is a rupture that has untold risk and mis-sold rewards. The problems his week are not just the product of incompetence and arrogance of process, they are integral to the substance of Brexit.”

The negotiations with the EU have come to a grinding halt after the trade bloc's leaders demanded Ms May guarantee there will no hard border in Ireland before talks proceed.

Ms May was forced to pull the plug on an agreement with the EU after it was rejected by the Democratic Unionist Party, which currently props her up through a confidence and supply agreement.

Responding to the drama Mr Miliband said the chaos was “integral” to Brexiteers pushing to leave the single market and the custom union.

“This is a canary in the mind for what is to come. Across every issue from chlorinated chicken to atomic energy, we are going to have similar sets of issues,” Mr Miliband said.

The former Foreign Secretary quit front line politics in 2013 after losing the Labour leadership election to his brother, Ed Miliband, and has since moved to New York to become the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

He has since kept a relatively low profile and has opted not to discuss UK politics in much depth, giving muted responses to questions about a potential return to Westminster.

Despite not being overly vocal about UK politics, Mr Miliband did urge the Government not to ignore Russian interference in the recent Brexit referendum.

“We should take the allegations that the Russians were significantly involved in the social media side of the referendum very seriously," Mr Miliband said.

“In Germany in the last two weeks of the general election 90 per cent of social media tweets were from Russian bots. It’s extraordinary and the German authorities did quite a good job of telling people to beware but not quite a good enough job."

Mr Miliband was in the UK to speak at the Cambridge Literary Festival to discuss his book, Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time.

The Cambridge Literary Spring Festival will run from 12 – 15 April 2018.

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