Belfast Telegraph

Failing to get Brexit right risks people being killed in Northern Ireland, warns Lord Patten

Lord Patten of Barnes
Lord Patten of Barnes

By Nick Lester

Failing to get Brexit right risks people being killed in Northern Ireland, a Tory former Cabinet minister has warned.

Conservative peer Lord Patten of Barnes gave the stark assessment as he highlighted what he felt the dangers of a return to a hard Irish border were.

He was speaking as peers debated proposed legislation aimed at blocking a no-deal exit on October 31.

The European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) Bill, which has already gone through the Commons, requires a delay to the UK's departure beyond the current deadline date unless a divorce settlement is approved or Parliament agrees to leaving the EU without one.

Speaking during the Bill's second reading, Lord Patten, who served as a Northern Ireland minister, underlined the security implications of Brexit for the region.

He told peers: "The first time I saw dead bodies, apart from those of my parents, was near the Newry customs post in Northern Ireland, with part of a leg on top of a rhododendron bush.

"We know perfectly well that there is a danger if we don't get this right of people being killed. Not just businesses being destroyed, not just communities being devastated, but people dying."

Lord Patten added: "These are terribly important issues and I just hope we will bear in mind these facts, as well as the questions of economics and trade, when we are determining the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the relationship between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, which many people still seem to treat as though we had viceregal authority over it."

Indicating his support for the Bill, the former EU commissioner questioned the apparent absence of negotiations between the UK Government and Brussels.

"There isn't any rustling in the shrubbery," Lord Patten said, as he referred to claims that Boris Johnson's top adviser Dominic Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign, had described the Brexit renegotiation as a "complete sham".

Lord Patten said: "Maybe we should just take it from Mr Cummings that all this is a sham and if it's a sham, all the more reason for having this legislation in place.

"And if it's not a sham, if we are making terrific progress, it seems to me very likely that we need rather more time to complete the progress.

"Hence the advantage of a few more months being built in if absolutely necessary."

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