I think it’s safe to say that the former BBC journalist Tim Sebastian has gone full-UKIP in this bizarrely aggressive interview with Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian MEP and member of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, for the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW). That said, the awkward debate does result in some interesting admissions by the representative of the left-wing Greens–European Free Alliance in Brussels (which includes our own Green Party, as well as the SNP and Plaid Cymru in Britain). Not least, Lamberts’ belief that the European Union is prepared to impose a maritime customs border between the Continent and Ireland if the Irish government refuses to secure the British border around the Six Counties in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Tim Sebastian: Mr. Lambert, this is the key sticking point, the Irish border, the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. If Britain crashes out without a deal, day one on this border, what happens?
Philippe Lamberts: There will be controls –
Tim Sebastian: Who’s putting up those controls?
Philippe Lamberts: Well, both sides will need to –
Tim Sebastian: But Britain says it isn’t and Ireland says it isn’t –
Philippe Lamberts: Of course, of course, of course –
Tim Sebastian: And Ireland says it isn’t.
Philippe Lamberts: Well, we will need to have contingency plans for that, of course –
Tim Sebastian: So what are they, your contingency plans?
Philippe Lamberts: …very soon, if this border is not policed, well it will be abused and –
Tim Sebastian: What are the EU’s plans, then? 208 border crossings –
Philippe Lamberts: Yes.
Tim Sebastian: And you propose to police all those, do you?
Philippe Lamberts: Well, we will need to control, we will need to control –
Tim Sebastian: Against the wishes of the Irish state, against the wishes of the Irish Republic? They’ve made it perfectly clear. “What we are saying is very clear” – this from Simon Coveney, the foreign minister – “the Irish government will not support the re-emergence of border infrastructure on this island”. Can it be clearer than that?
Philippe Lamberts: No, it cannot be clearer than that. But then they know the consequences. That then we will put the checks elsewhere than on the intra-Irish border –
Tim Sebastian: Who, who will put the checks?
Philippe Lamberts: Well, the European Union member states. What do you -?
Tim Sebastian: What do these checks look like, then? Who’s gonna put them up? Frontex? [The European Border and Coast Guard Agency]
Philippe Lamberts: Not Frontex! I mean the customs, the customs authority in the various Member States. I mean, what you believe? Do you believe that we are going to let any good enter the European Union just unchecked? And so, if the Irish don’t do it then of course people on the Continent will –
Tim Sebastian: So there will be a border between Ireland and other EU states -?
Philippe Lamberts: And, and I tell you, and I tell you that the Republic of Ireland is very much preoccupied about the integrity of the single market and doesn’t want to be excluded from the single markets… Between two evils we have to choose the lesser one.
Tim Sebastian: So it’s a choice between the Good Friday Agreement and the single market then, isn’t it? …In February you warned Dublin that if it came to a choice between those two things, you would decide that the single market was more important…