Taoiseach signals end of phoney war on border

Taoiseach signals end of phoney war on border

The most interesting thing about Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Brexit outburst on Friday was how long it has taken someeone, anyone, from the Irish government to tell it like it most certainly is. After 14 months of diplomatic cliches (“we agreed that nobody wants a return to a hard border”), he just came out and said it; the Irish government is not in the business of coming up with solutions to a problem created by the British.

The Taoiseach was asked at a press briefing what the future border might look like. “What we are not going to do is design a border for the Brexiteers,” he replied. “They are the ones who want a border, it is up to them to say what it is, to say how it would work and to first of all convince their own people, their own voters, that this is actually a good idea. So let them put forward their proposals as to how they think a border should operate and then we’ll ask them if they really think this is such a good idea because I think it will have a very severe impact on their economy if they decide to go down that route.”

Closely reflecting points already made by Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, Varadkar dismissed talk of a ‘frictionless’ border based on high-tech monitoring.

“Britain has decided to leave and if they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for the border of the future and all that, that’s up to them. We’re not going to be doing that work for them because we don’t think there should be an economic border at all.” For good measure, he added: “If anyone should be angry it’s us, quite frankly.”

Separately, a government spokesperson said work by the Revenue Commissioners on electronic monitoring of border traffic has been discontinued. In London, David Davis’s Brexit ministry said it was still working for “as frictionless and seamless a border as possible”, but Davis had already signalled that joint work on unobtrusive border controls had been ‘slightly stymied’ by the appointment of Simon Coveney and their border discussions had ‘started from scratch’.