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Jacob Rees-Mogg: 'Walking through fields' at Irish border won't provide insight on Brexit

By Gareth Cross

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that a visit to the Irish border would not provide him any further insight into Brexit.

The Brexit hardliner made the comments during an interview with Mark Carruthers on BBC One NI's The View.

He said he had not visited Northern Ireland recently but he had discussed the matter with people from Northern Ireland.

When Mr Carruthers suggested that the North East Somerset MP wasn't interested in opinions that differed from his own, Mr Rees-Mogg said that "walking through a few fields" would be of no value.

Mr Rees-Mogg is currently the Chairman of the European Research Group in Westminster.

He has long been a Eurosceptic and has spoken out in support of the DUP and the Conservative Party's Confidence and Supply deal.

The colourful MP repeated his belief there would be no hard border in Ireland.

"There is already a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, for immigration rules, for currency, for VAT and excise.

"It is not a border which has men in peaked caps monitoring it or barriers to enforce it.

"When we leave the EU there will be other aspects of this, there will be regulatory, divergence and customs issues.

"They do not need to be policed at the border and I think you need to look at the border as a tax point rather than a check point, there is no need for physical infrastructure."

Mr Rees-Mogg said that there was no desire for a hard border.

"The British Government is not proposing a border manned 24 hours a day, there is no need for that," he said.

"The checks don't need to take place on the goods at the border, they need to take place on the goods once they have passed through.

"Is the EU going to insist that the Republic of Ireland implements a physical 24-hour manned border structure along the border?

"This seems fanciful, all the relevant governments have said that they do not want physical infrastructure at the border, if all three don't want it, who is going to do it?"

Mr Rees-Mogg rejected claims that Brexit and a hard border could lead to a return to violence in Northern Ireland.

"They are ignoring the fact that there is already a border and there are already controls, it's the continuation of what's already there with some marginal differences.

It's very simple, it is absolute scaremongering and a really dangerous type of scaremongering because it is raising the spectre of a return to violence to achieve a short-term political goal. Jacob Rees-Mogg

He said things would become clearer on the Irish border after a trade deal was agreed.

"Once you do know the trade deal it's much easier to settle once and for all the Irish border question."

"I don't think that my going to the border would give me any greater insight than speaking to people.

"I've spoken to people from Northern Ireland who deal with the border.

"I don't think it will give me any greater fundamental insight than studying it.

"The issue is one about do you need physical infrastructure in relation to what is going to happen and the answer is no you don't.

"My going and wandering across a few roads isn't going to tell me anything about that further."

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Map of the Irish border which has nearly 300 crossings (PA Graphics)

Mr Carruthers suggested that the situation was a lot more complicated than Mr Rees-Mogg was making it.

"This is a voluntary act, how you police your border is a decision for a sovereign state," he said.

"If a sovereign state says we should leave this border open the border is open, either the UK or Irish government will have to decide if they want to implement a hard border.

"Both governments have said they don't wish to do this, so who is going to do it, that is the question nobody has answered.

"Is some phantom government going to do this? It is very straightforward."

SDLP Brexit Spokesperson Claire Hanna MLA said Mr Rees-Mogg did not care about the issues facing Northern Ireland.

“Jacob Rees-Mogg apparently has no understanding of the complicated issues surrounding regulatory alignment and the border. He clearly doesn’t care either. Despite not visiting the border or listening to the views and concerns of those involved in trade, technology and business or those who live in border areas who will be overwhelmingly impacted by Brexit and the Tory Brexiteer attitude, he thinks he knows best," the South Belfast MLA said.

“We can only assume that he thinks the general public are so stupid that they’ll believe what he says despite the facts saying otherwise. If there are different product standards or different trade regulations in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, a border will be required. Those are hard facts which hard Brexiteers can’t just wish away.”

“Like other Brexiteers, he has failed to engage in the details, simply seeking to reach the finish line of Brexit next March and apparently any Brexit will do, regardless of the consequences.”

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