Over the weekend the press in the UK carried a number of leaked recommendations from a draft report by the European Research Group (ERG), a bellicose cadre of Conservative Party MPs urging the British premier, Theresa May, to cut a “hard Brexit” or minimalist withdrawal deal with the European Union before the official exit date of March 2019. Among the more bizarre suggestions from the backbench legislators are plans for a military quick-reaction force to project the United Kingdom’s power around the globe, including its control over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic (contested during the three-month war with Argentina in 1982), while also arguing for the creation of what is being interpreted as a multi-billion euro “Star Wars”-style missile defence screen over Britain. Naturally, Ireland gets a mention too, albeit in a perfunctory manner, with a few lines recommending that any future customs inspections for entry into the UK-administered Six Counties from the rest of the island should be carried out at locations away from the disputed region’s porous and heretofore invisible land frontier.
The reasons for the latter suggestion, and the aggressive tone of the ERG document in general, are fairly obvious when one reads this interview in the The Sunday Times newspaper with George Hamilton, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). According to the head of the UK’s paramilitary police force in north-east Ulster, minsters and politicians in London have a feeling:
“…that as regards the Troubles and the conflict, Northern Ireland is sorted and we don’t need to worry about it, when actually we’re working flat out 24/7 to keep a lid on it.”
In that light, Hamilton argues that the role of any customs installations or technology erected along or near the formerly militarised border would rapidly change:
“The purpose for which those checking points and border controls would be put in place would become less and less relevant because they would move away from issues of trade or movement of people to old-fashioned security on a national frontier.
That was done during the period of the Troubles rather unsuccessfully, and was sadly the subject of attacks and many lives lost.
I have a concern some [in Downing Street, Whitehall and Westminster] may see issues to do with the Irish border as literally peripheral, not just geographically but in terms of impact.”
Unfortunately, the Tory Brexiteers in Britain – and their Labour Party enablers – refuse to recognise the dangers of their actions and will continue to do so until it is literally too late.