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We will keep GB-NI border open, insists Brokenshire

By Lesley Anne McKeown

Published 15/09/2016

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire

A hard border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will not be introduced following the vote to leave the EU, MPs have been told.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was pressed on the matter during an appearance before a select committee at Westminster.

He said: "In the same way that I do not want to see a return to the borders of the past in relation to the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, I do not want to a hard border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and (to be) treating, in essence, one part of the United Kingdom in a separate way to another part of the United Kingdom."

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson called for the recently appointed Secretary of State to categorically rule out the prospect of security checks for people travelling between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

Mr Brokenshire said it was important to ensure free movement of people, but he also acknowledged that formal negotiations on leaving the EU had not yet begun. He added: "The approach we are taking to the solutions ahead is to ensure that there is that sense of people being able to move freely between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and not seeing that return to the borders of the past in terms of the land border to the South."

Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon urged the minister to provide assurances that he would not trigger a border poll, despite calls from Sinn Fein in the aftermath of the referendum result.

Mr Brokenshire told the committee that there was "strong support" for the current political arrangements and he saw no reason that would lead to him calling a vote on the issue.

He added: "I have seen no evidence to require me to trigger a border poll because the majority of the public remain firmly behind the political settlement.

The minister was also quizzed on a range of other matters including the establishment of new bodies to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's violent past, the pursuit of former soldiers in relation to Troubles-era deaths, and efforts to secure compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored terror attacks.

He said tackling paramilitary activity was a priority, adding: "This is something that will need a really concerted effort on so many different fronts."

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