Ireland border issue 'manageable', claims Davis as EU braces itself for no deal
The UK-Ireland border issue is "manageable", former UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said yesterday.
Speaking in his first major interview since resigning from Theresa May's Cabinet last week over her Chequers Brexit plan, Mr Davis said the border issue was "heavily misunderstood".
"The point that people forget is that there is a border there already.
"There's a VAT border, there's an excise border, there's a legal border, and it's managed perfectly well as it stands by the Irish and British customs and police authorities together," he told the Sunday Express.
"With a decent amount of interaction between our agencies, it's manageable."
The former minister - who has been a prominent pro-Brexit voice in Parliament for many years - said the Irish Government had last December insisted on using the phrase "full alignment" and was now trying to use that terminology as a lever in the negotiations.
"Of course there are two understandings of 'full alignment'," he commented.
"Our understanding is clear - it's full alignment of outcomes. That doesn't create a barrier down the Irish Sea.
"What we can't say suddenly is 'Oh, it (Northern Ireland) is going to be in the single market'.
"That's an affront to the integrity of the United Kingdom."
Mr Davis' intervention was supported by former Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who told the newspaper that the UK-Ireland border had been "shamefully exploited by Brussels and Remainers" in a bid to block Brexit.
Mr Paterson, who was Northern Ireland Secretary from 2010 to 2012, said: "Suggestions that Brexit might threaten peace in Northern Ireland are politically motivated and shamefully irresponsible."
The Shropshire North MP dismissed speculation about potential border checkpoints and freight traffic delays. "Avoiding such a border is perfectly achievable with modern technology and the goodwill which exists on both sides," he said.
Both the UK and Irish Governments have already said they do not intend to erect any customs checkpoint infrastructure at the border between the UK and the Republic after Brexit.
Mr Davis' upbeat view comes as both the UK and the EU step up preparations to cope with a 'World Trade' Brexit, which will happen if the EU does not agree a mutually satisfactory trade deal with the UK before next March's Brexit deadline.
Prime Minister Theresa May has very little room for manoeuvre or concession to any further EU demand, after her Chequers plan triggered a series of Ministerial resignations.
At the same time, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has already given Mrs May's Chequers plan a negative response, suggesting that it does not meet Brussels 'red lines', and could mean that the UK would be a major trade competitor to the EU after Brexit.
Meanwhile, in the Republic, Border Minister Joe McHugh continued to warn that Brexit may endanger the peace process.
Speaking to the Irish Mail on Sunday yesterday, the Donegal TD said a hard border "would - in one fell swoop - squander a peace process that was so hard won".
"You are looking at a peace process that, despite its 20-year span, is still in its infancy," he said.
The minister said the recent upsurge in violence in Derry "indicates how hard it is to undo the consequences of the previous five decades".
And Fine Gael Jobs Minister Heather Humphreys - who recently attended a GAA match in Clones with DUP leader Arlene Foster - told the paper: "We can never take peace for granted...even a single customs post will cause chaos.
"We would be at the edge of an economic wilderness."
Fianna Fail's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said hundreds of Garda officers could have to be relocated to border areas after Brexit.
He continued, calling on the Republic's Government to "wake up to this appalling prospect and ensure that the gardai are adequately resourced should an unpredictable hard border develop".