A “no-deal” Brexit would be “devastating” for the peace process in Northern Ireland, a former Irish prime minister has said.
John Bruton said Britain leaving the European Union without a negotiated settlement would inevitably result in barriers being erected on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Government released fresh policy papers on Monday which outlined how the UK would handle customs and trade arrangements if it failed to reach a trade deal with Brussels, raising the prospect of a no-deal exit. Britain is committed to maintaining the soft Irish border but the issue is proving difficult to solve given the Government’s commitment to ending free movement of EU citizens by leaving the single market and customs union.
Discussing a no-deal Brexit, Mr Bruton warned on Sky News’s All Out Politics: “The effects in Ireland would be devastating for the peace process.
“I spent a lot of my life building a reconciliation that enabled a peace process in Northern Ireland to be put in place.
“That’s going to be utterly disrupted by the barriers that will have to be imposed along the border if Britain leaves the European Union without a satisfactory deal.”
He urged Britain to change its approach and ask for a six-year negotiating period while remaining in the EU, claiming the country is not ready to make the compromises necessary to reach a deal in the two-year Article 50 process which ends in March 2019.
Mr Bruton also warned of “enormous” job losses and delays at borders if a trade agreement is not reached.
“Most of the cheddar that you eat in Britain is produced in Ireland,” he said.
“If that had to bear a very heavy tariff, or if many of the food industry exports from Britain to Ireland had to bear a very heavy tariff, the disruption would be enormous, the delays would be enormous, the loss of jobs would be enormous.”
“All of this could perhaps be avoided if we just took a little bit more time to do the deal in a rational way rather than in accordance with an unduly tight timetable which was put in place on the assumption that something like Brexit would not actually happen.”