Justice Minister David Ford says he can’t see how the border from Londonderry to Newry could be successfully enforced in the event of it becoming a soft option for immigration to the United Kingdom with Brexit.
Mr Ford said the UK authorities will not want to allow Northern Ireland become a ‘route’ for immigration from the Republic of Ireland into the United Kingdom.
But the Justice Minister, speaking during a recent briefing session at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said he couldn’t see how people could be stopped crossing the border, which meanders largely imperceptibly from Carlingford to Lough Foyle.
“The case around borders is what level of border control would be required between the UK and the EU on that wavy line from Derry to Newry,” said Mr Ford.
“In terms of migration, there clearly is the potential that the existing common travel area might be lost in the event of the UK leaving the EU.
“Given how porous we know the border was during the Troubles with the passage of people and illegal armaments and suchlike, given the numbers of soldiers and police officers who were in place at that time, it is very difficult to see how that border could be maintained if it was seen as the soft option into the UK,” said Mr Ford.
UUP MP Danny Kinahan asked the Minister if he thought Brexit would result in increased controls at ports and airports.
“I think there is already an element of that in the operation of the border force, that it is easier in that sense to prevent people moving into Great Britain by covering the ports and the airports than it is by controlling a land border that is so ill-defined,” said Mr Ford.
“That is clearly something that depends more on issues like the common travel area than it does on the precise issue of membership of the EU but I suspect it might well follow.”