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No deal Brexit risks future security of Northern Ireland, says Bradley as police body calls for border clarity

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The Secretary of State has said any rejection of Theresa May's Brexit deal would significantly curtail the PSNI's ability to counter terrorism and serious organised crime.

Warning of the security risk posed by a no-deal Brexit, Karen Bradley told the Belfast Telegraph: "Rejecting the deal we have secured will have real implications and risks increasing pressure on law enforcement authorities.

"The PSNI and our agencies would have no clarity on what happens next March, but the deal means they will have certainty of an implementation period where existing tools and measures will continue, followed by an ambitious security partnership.

"If the deal is rejected, then instead of that certainty, we would need to revert to old mechanisms to facilitate cross-border co-operation which are slow and would cause considerable delays.

"No one wants to take a leap in the dark on something as vital to Northern Ireland as security co-operation and bringing criminals and terrorists to justice."

Ms Bradley warned those who are pressing for no deal rather than backing the Prime Minister's plan that they are risking the future security of the country.

"This moment calls for leadership in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

"The small minority in Northern Ireland who advocate no deal rather than this deal need to be honest that they cannot address police concerns about the security co-operation that is so critical here.

"As the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and as a member of Parliament, I have to answer for how my decisions and my vote will help keep our streets and our communities safe. All of those weighing up whether or not to support this deal need to do the same."

The Secretary of State's comments come after the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) called for immediate action to ensure staffing levels can cope with the implications or all Brexit scenarios.

PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said border security issues must be sorted out urgently.

"The political turmoil around Brexit is for politicians to resolve, but what we are saying is accelerate contingency planning to prepare for what happens from April 1," Mr Lindsay said.

"We cannot afford to sleepwalk into a situation where, at the last minute, officers are re-deployed from cities and towns such as Belfast, Ballymena or Coleraine to some of the major crossing points along the 310-mile border with the Republic of Ireland.

"We need hundreds more officers if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal. The case has already been made by the PSNI for more resources and decisions are now overdue.

"We simply cannot produce 300-400 officers overnight and if Government approval for an increase in the size of the PSNI isn't forthcoming quite soon, then we will be left to confront major gaps in service provision as we race to meet requirements in a hard Brexit scenario.

"I'm appealing to all concerned to make this a major priority and to get it sorted out."

Mr Lindsay's remarks come amid warnings from commanders on both sides of the border, and also Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that a hard Brexit could prompt an upsurge in dissident republican activity, with the border becoming a target for violent attacks.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has already asked for 400 extra officers to deal with the repercussions of Brexit.

The PSNI confirmed talks are ongoing.

They said: "There has been and continues to be high-level engagement with Government about the challenges facing PSNI in the context of a severe terrorist threat, and the potential operational implications of what will become the only land border between the UK and the EU. These discussions are addressing what the appropriate uplift for PSNI resources should be."

One "appropriate uplift" could be an influx of officers from Scotland, with Police Scotland Chief Constable Ian Livingstone confirming talks have been ongoing with Mr Hamilton.

Mr Livingstone said: "Planning is ongoing right across UK policing in relation to mitigating some of the impacts which may be required to manage potential consequences of Brexit.

"At the end of last week I spoke at some length with the Chief Constable of the PSNI.

"We agreed that we would work together to provide support to our respective services.

"We are planning for an eventuality that should the Chief Constable need support, one of the first places he may ask for support is from Police Scotland.

"This option is a significant part of the planning initiated."

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