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No-deal Brexit means hard border in Ireland, says EU - Coveney: 'We cannot wish away this problem'

The Irish government has previously said it is not making plans for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)
The Irish government has previously said it is not making plans for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

It is "obvious" there will be a hard border in Ireland if the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a Brexit deal, the European Commission's chief spokesman has claimed.

Margaritis Schinas made the comments to reporters on Tuesday.

The comments from Mr Schinas come despite the UK and Irish governments having both made commitments that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Schinas said: "If you'd like to push me and speculate on what might happen in a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it's pretty obvious - you will have a hard border.

"And our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and everything that we have been doing for years with our tools, instruments and programmes will have to take, inevitably, into account this fact.

"So, of course we are for peace; of course we stand behind the Good Friday Agreement but that's what a withdrawal... that's a no-deal scenario, that's what it [would] entail.

"So I will not now speculate on this Plan B because as I said seconds ago we are for Plan A which is set by the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration as a package."

European Commission spokesman Margartis Schinas updated reporters on Mr Barnier’s comments (European Commission Audiovisual Services)

DUP MP Gregory Campbell called on the Commission to "spell out" what a hard border would look like.

The East Londonderry representative said: "The EU must spell out what exactly this 'hard border' would look like. Residents and business people are being bombarded daily with a diet of fear and recklessly inaccurate scare stories. 

"Setting aside for the moment the more important matter of securing a better deal that people can support, the EU should explain what this 'hard border' would consist of.  How would it be constructed? Where would the employees be drawn from?

"What steps would be implemented, and by whom to prevent the ease with which people and companies could avoid using the crossings where this 'hard border' was constructed?

"This is a fundamental question that the EU must answer given the frequency with which they have raised the subject matter over a period of almost two years."

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: "While nobody wants a crash Brexit, we must prepare for any and all eventualities.

“The government must now face up to the reality that there will in fact be a hard border in Ireland in the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement and they need to assert that this is an entirely unacceptable situation for Ireland."

Frustration: Simon Coveney

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the border issue could not be "wished away".

He said people shouldn’t “lose focus” from trying to get the Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal Agreement passed by the House of Commons.

“The Irish government will not support the re-emergence of a border,” he said, adding that without the backstop it becomes “very, very difficult”.

“The solution is there. We have it. We will work to avoid a hard border in all circumstances.”

Last week Prime Minister Theresa May said the EU had made it clear there will be no flexibility on border checks in the event of a no-deal.

"The Irish government will be expected to apply EU checks in full," she said.

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