Belfast Telegraph

Physical border checks in Ireland ruled out even with a no-deal: DUP

By Staff Reporters

Sammy Wilson has said he has received assurances from a senior civil servant that there will be no physical border checks even if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal.

The DUP MP also claimed that cross-border health services - such as children's heart surgery - would also remain unaffected by a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking after the Brexit Committee in Westminster yesterday - at which the Permanent Secretaries of HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Health gave evidence - Mr Wilson said that he welcomed the assurances on issues that were causing concern in Northern Ireland.

Commenting after the meeting he said that the Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Jon Thompson had given him "assurances that even if no deal was agreed between the UK and the EU there would be no physical checks placed along the border to deal with trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic".

He said Mr Thompson had "expressed disappointment that it had been impossible for HMRC to get any assurances from the Irish Government as to what arrangements they intend to put in place and indeed this seemed to be a common issue with all the EU countries through which UK trade had to move and is clearly part of the EU's intransigent negotiating stance".

Mr Wilson said that recent concerns had been expressed about the continuation of certain cross-border healthcare service, such as cancer treatment carried out in Londonderry, children's heart surgery carried out in Dublin, and other cooperative ventures in place between health departments in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"It was confirmed that since these were not in any way related to our membership of the EU that the continuation of these arrangements would be entirely a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government," he said.

"The Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health indicated that whilst he could not comment on a devolved matter; nevertheless, such arrangements were already in place between NHS England and the Irish government and he would find it very surprising that this support for vulnerable and sick people would not continue.

"Again, these are issues which the Irish government could give certainty on immediately if they decided to stop playing negotiating games and unnecessarily causing worry to people who benefit from these arrangements."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein organised a protest at Stormont urging the UK government to break its "toxic marriage" with the DUP.

Sinn Fein politicians Mairtin O Muilleoir, Paul Maskey, Michelle Gildernew and around 20 Sinn Fein protesters went to the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont yesterday to deliver the message.

South Belfast MLA and former Finance Minister Mr O Muilleoir said: "We are making a point that is evident to all sensible people here to mitigate against the excesses of the extreme Brexiteers that the marriage between the DUP and the Tories is toxic to the people of the north of the island of Ireland.

"We're asking Mrs May to look above and beyond that relationship and alliance she has with the DUP and instead make a decision which is in line with what she said previously - to remain in the customs union, remain in the single market for the all-Ireland economy, but also protect the agreement, peace and reconciliation."

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