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UUP blasts Angela Merkel over 'harmful' border remark

By Staff Reporter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested that the Troubles could return to Ireland as a possible consequence of the UK leaving the EU.

Speaking at a meeting of German trade union leaders in Berlin, Mrs Merkel warned that current fears of a hard border following Brexit show "how quickly you get to questions of war and peace".

But last night Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson hit back, describing Mrs Merkel's remarks as offensive and harmful.

He called on her to withdraw them immediately.

"I have a great deal of respect for Angela Merkel but in these comments she is entirely wrong," the MEP said.

"We are in the middle of a UK general election and German federal elections are due to take place in September. Unfortunately, rhetoric is likely to be high in the next few months.

"No one disputes that border issues will be difficult to resolve but resorting to this kind of hyperbole is offensive and harmful as it provides excuses for terrorists. It may be that she does not realise how offensive these comments are, or she has been poorly advised, but she needs to withdraw them as a matter of urgency.

"The only people to blame for violence are the perpetrators, and there is never an excuse for terrorist acts."

In a question and answer session after her speech, Mrs Merkel also said there would be a cost to the UK for leaving the EU and ending unrestricted movement.

"If the British Government ends the free movement of people, that will have its price in relations with Britain," Mrs Merkel said.

"That's not malicious. But you cannot expect to enjoy all the benefits and then say there will be an upper limit of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens, no more, or we'll only accept researchers, but nobody else. This will not work."

She also threatened retaliatory measures if the UK restricts immigration.

"We would have to think about what restrictions we could create from the European side to compensate for that.

"The British car industry relies on supplies from continental European countries. It is up to the British side, who say they want minimum disruption."

The remarks come just a week after top EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that while there was no reason why there could not be a "strong relationship" with the UK after it leaves, there would inevitably be consequences, such as customs controls.

Free cross-border flow is possible, says Republic’s top Brexit official

Free movement of goods and people across the Irish border after the UK quits the EU is achievable in principle, the Republic’s top Brexit official has said.

Customs operations can be automated for commercial vehicles, while private vehicles can flow freely and there will be no need for permanent checkpoints, said Revenue assistant secretary Tony Buckley.

But the stakes are very high, and the Republic could face losing access to EU and international markets and potential fines if it fails to operate what will be an external EU frontier post Brexit adequately, he added.

Mr Buckley suggested the vast bulk of checks on commercial vehicles would be automated, using advanced declaration and technology, combined with a certain amount of traffic monitoring .

“The main image that comes to people’s minds when it comes to a border is cars being stopped and searched,” Mr Buckley told a British Irish Chamber of Commerce conference.

“That’s not going to happen. There’s no reason for it. We have some 300 border crossings. We haven’t the faintest intention of closing any of those or interfering with them. So normal private traffic, people going back and forth, will continue.”

Trade facilitation posts would be required close to the border, but what would happen at these posts is not clear until the negotiations play out, he said.

Mr Buckley told the conference at the RDS in Dublin that physical checks are carried out on no more than 2% of goods coming across the borders and a further 6% are documentary checks.

He said the ambition of free cross-border flow can be realised.

“How exactly, we don’t know, because we don’t know exactly what the details of the negotiating outcome will be,” he said.

“Certainly in principle it is deliverable to have continued free movement of people and goods on the island.”

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