NIO – IRISH BORDER BACKSTOP – 8 July 2019

[David Simpson: We have heard so often in this House about a hard border; who is going to implement a hard border?

Tony Lloyd: That is not a difficult question to answer. The European Union would insist on a border across the island of Ireland. There is no doubt about that. There can be no question of Northern Ireland acting as some kind of back door for smugglers. I am old enough to remember the days when gates were left open on the border and cattle would wander across, by morning and night. Those days have not entirely gone, and we know that smuggling still takes place between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but the European Union would not allow the institutionalisation of any facility that made the smugglers’ lives easier.]

Dr Julian Lewis: My question is along similar lines. Let me just probe a little further. I once asked the Prime Minister this question nine times in a seven-minute session without getting a satisfactory answer. If there were to be this dreaded hard border, ​who would actually construct it? The British would not construct it, and the Irish Republic would not construct it. The Shadow Secretary of State says that the EU would insist on it, so would the EU construct it? If so, how would it do so?

[Tony Lloyd: The construction industry would itself suffer from a hard Brexit. The border would be constructed, and there is absolutely no doubt that there would have to be controls to prevent smuggling. This is a simple phenomenon.]

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Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend [Simon Hoare] is tremendously courteous. May I congratulate him on doing what the Prime Minister and the Shadow Secretary of State did not do? He seems to have got very close to giving a straight answer to the question. The straight answer appears to be that, if the European Union decided that a hard, impermeable, fenced border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic needed to be built, the Irish Republic would accept its orders from Brussels and construct it. That seems to be the answer, does it not?

[Simon Hoare: I will not go into the materials and whether it needs to be a physical gated fence but, in essence, my right hon. Friend is correct in his interpretation of what I said. The Republic will remain part of the European Union, and support for membership of the European Union is going up in the Republic. As has been pointed out by innumerable Republic politicians, favourable opinion polls rarely go down when an Irish politician sets their face against the will of an English or a British politician, and we need to be cognisant of that history.]