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Just six extra border force staff for Northern Ireland, says union

Irish border (David Young/PA)
Irish border (David Young/PA)

by Colm Kelpie

NORTHERN Ireland's 57 Border Force officers will only be bolstered by six members after a recent recruitment exercise, a trade union has warned.

And that is unlikely to be enough to adequately police the province's air and sea ports and 335-mile border after Brexit, a powerful Westminster committee has said.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee said it was increasingly alarmed about the impact that inadequate resources are having on the capacity for the UK's Border Force to operate effectively.

"This is a system which has not functioned properly for a number of years, in large part due to insufficient staffing," it said. The committee pointed out that the lack of clarity on the future relationship with Ireland also poses particular challenges for Scottish and Welsh ports.

"There are real concerns that Border Force will struggle to cope with an expansion of its activities, and that airports and other points of entry to the UK lack the physical capacity to carry out additional checks on people and goods," it said.

The committee referred to written evidence given by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), one of the largest trade unions in the UK, which said the Brexit-related Border Force complement for Northern Ireland was inadequate.

"They [PCS] explained that there are currently 57 Border Force officers in Northern Ireland covering four major sea ports, three main airports and a land border over 335 miles long, and pointed out that the workforce will increase by just six following the recent recruitment exercise," the report noted.

The committee said it is clear that a Brexit which involves leaving the customs union will have "significant impacts".

The paper urges the government to be "realistic" about the lack of time left to make substantial changes to UK border arrangements before March next year.

It added: "Rushed and under-resourced changes will put border security at risk."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "It is ridiculous to suggest that we are not preparing sufficiently for leaving the EU.

"We will keep staffing under review as negotiations progress, but will always ensure we have the resources and workforce we need to run an effective system."

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