July 28, 2017, 11:07 a.m.
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The idea of having a post-Brexit border in the Irish sea “has been around for some time”, a senior political source has said today.
A report this morning suggested the Government was pushing for such a Border as part of any deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom as it leaves the union. The report in London Times and its Ireland edition suggested that rather than a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic a border could exist in the Irish Sea and free movement would be allowed on the island of Ireland.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has insisted the Government’s approach to the border in Brexit negotiations has been consistent but the DUP described Dublin’s stance as “madness”.
A senior political source here said: “The notion of a border at sea has been around for some time and has been articulated in public on several occasions.”
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, said: “The Government has consistently said that the border issue is a political not a technical matter and it will require flexible and imaginative solutions.
“The risks of a hard border are not solely economic or trade related. It is also about communities and society and there are many factors that will have to be considered.
He said Ireland’s unique concerns and priorities for the Brexit negotiations have been “strongly acknowledged” by both the UK and Ireland’s EU partners.
“The objectives of protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process including avoiding a hard border are shared by all sides.”
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson accused Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney of “jumping the gun” after a story appeared this morning.
The story reported British officials were taken aback at what they interpreted as a change in tone taken by Ireland as negotiations on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union continue.
The DUP, which is propping up the Conservative Government in Britain, reacted angrily to the story. Sir Jeffrey said modern technology could come up with a “frictionless border”.
He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “I believe it is possible to arrive at this outcome. Modern technology is a wonderful thing.”
Sir Jeffrey said an offshore border would be “madness” as both parts of the island conduct most of their business with the UK.