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Insiders: Ireland's Brexit border

UK Brexit: Is peace in Northern Ireland at risk and what will happen at the Irish border?

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Insiders: Ireland's Brexit border

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Sophie Claudet

We’ve seen that Theresa May has offered more than one billion euros to Northern Ireland as part of her deal with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). Could separatists still push for reigniting Ireland?

Charles Grant

Because the DUP, which is one strong community in Northern Ireland, is now aligned with the British government, how can the British government play the role of being a neutral arbiter in the peace process in Northern Ireland which is still a problem, there are still many difficult issues to overcome in Northern Ireland. So it may perhaps strengthen feeling amongst the Catholics that staying in the UK is a bad deal, that they are not being well treated, that their enemies in the DUP are close to the British government now, so it could perhaps ignite some nationalist feeling. But as far as I can see, most people in the north of Ireland and indeed most people in the south, do not actually want a united Ireland at the moment. That would be a step too far for most of them and just too complicated at the current time.

Sophie Claudet

Do you think that as far as Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are concerned, are we heading for a hard border or something in between?

Grant: If Britain leaves the EU customs union there will have to be customs controls on the borders between the EU and the UK, including between the north of Ireland and the south of Ireland, borders to check for duties being paid, for forms being filled in, for rules of origin to be respected.

Sophie Claudet

Do you think in the particular context of Ireland it could lead to renewed tension or even violence?

Charles Grant

Possibly yes, because if you have these customs controls going back to the border that will be a provocation to the extreme nationalists who will want a united Ireland. And if the border posts go up, I know there is a fear in Dublin that terrorists could burn them down or blow them up, which is a very strong reason not to have border posts, which is another reason for Britain to stay in a customs union with the EU. My friends in Dublin are very worried about Britain leaving the customs union because of the impact it could have on the peace process in Northern Ireland.

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