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Sajid Javid: Government should pay 'hundreds of millions' for Irish border solution

The Irish border has proven a thorny issue for negotiators (Michael McHugh/PA)
The Irish border has proven a thorny issue for negotiators (Michael McHugh/PA)
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Tory leadership hopeful Sajid Javid has said the Government should pay "hundreds of millions of euros" to solve the Irish border issue and break the Brexit deadlock.

The Home Secretary told the Mail On Sunday he believes a technological solution to the problem can be found and Britain has a "moral and economic duty" to cover the cost.

Preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland has long been a major stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations, with the EU proposing the controversial backstop to avoid such a scenario.

Sajid Javid is one of several Tory leadership hopefuls. Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Sajid Javid is one of several Tory leadership hopefuls. Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

The backstop is an insurance mechanism in the Withdrawal Agreement that would keep the UK in the EU customs union and Northern Ireland in large parts of the single market.

It would come in to force in the event that the UK and the EU fail to agree a post-Brexit trading relationship or if a technological solution cannot be found to keep the border frictionless.

Mr Javid warned, however, that such a solution will take "hundreds of millions of euros, no one really knows because it hasn't been done before".

He said: "I think it’s morally justified to pay for that because we both have signed the Good Friday Agreement, we are both absolutely committed to peace on the island of Ireland and - given that we voted to leave and that’s what’s changing the status quo on the island of Ireland - I think it’s morally right that we say, 'look, we’ll pay because we’ve caused this'."

The Conservative leadership candidate said the cost would be recouped as the UK would experience a "mini-economic boom" if a Brexit deal is agreed in coming months.

A technological solution to the border issue has been mooted in the past, drawing a mixed response.

In 2018, a report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee stated that: “We have, however, had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border.

"The government’s proposals for technical solutions represent blue sky thinking but it will not have the time to implement anything substantial before withdrawal day."

In March this year, however, the committee changed its view and said that, in light of further evidence, "bespoke arrangements" could be made to avoid physical infrastructure on the border.

Chairman Andrew Murrison said: “My committee took good evidence to suggest that technical and systems-based solutions to ensure the border looks and feels as it does today are do-able but they require trust and goodwill.”

Meanwhile, another Tory leadership hopeful, Boris Johnson, told The Sunday Times said he would scrap the backstop altogether and settle the border issue only when the EU is ready to agree a future relationship.

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