Back on December 19th when several newspapers in the United Kingdom reported that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had been allocated emergency funding to recruit over 300 extra personnel in preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, leading members of the country’s Brexit movement dismissed the reports as scaremongering. They alleged that the “story” was another part of “project fear”: an orchestrated campaign to intimidate the British general public into backing the pro-EU Remain argument. Then the authorities in Belfast and London confirmed that the reports were entirely accurate and that along with securing millions of euros in extra funding, the UK paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland had decided to maintain several installations along or near the border with the rest of the island that had been earmarked for closure or sale as part of the ongoing “peace process dividend”.
When Britain’s tabloid Sun newspaper reported on January 1st that the PSNI had issued a request through the UK National Police Co-ordination Centre for experienced riot control officers to be assigned to the region as part of its growing Brexit preparations, the claim was widely derided by Brexiteers and their sympathisers in the press. Until official spokespersons in Belfast and London confirmed the veracity of the report the next day, explaining that the PSNI was seeking “volunteers” from law enforcement agencies in England, Wales and Scotland to help accelerate its training programmes in anticipation of possible civil disorder in the coming months.
Now the Guardian newspaper is reporting that nearly a 1000 police officers from the United Kingdom are expected to be deployed to the Six Counties in the weeks before the March deadline for the British exit from Europe. And yet again, the leading lights of the Leave campaign are decrying the reports as “fake news” designed to scare voters into backing the contentious withdrawal deal between London and Brussels.
All of which makes one wonder, what universe are the more hardline supporters of Brexit living in if they simply refuse to believe the evidence of their own eyes and ears? And how on earth can one agree any form of compromise with people who have crossed the line from enthusiasm to fanaticism?