Brexit 55 Days: SDLP and Sinn Féin react to Varadkar’s custom check warning

Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood

Admissions by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney that customs checks will take place near the border in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit 55 days from now have sparked concern.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Dublin’s acknowledgment that checks to protect the “intergrity of the European single market” will be needed, underscored the “need for a backstop”.

Sinn Féin said the imposition of custom checks was “completely unacceptable”.

Speaking at a British Irish Chamber of Commerce dinner in Dublin the Taoiseach said some checks may need to take place “near the border”.

The Tánaiste has also said that the Irish Government has a responsibility to protect its own place in the EU single market but that any checks will be done away from the border where possible.

With just eight weeks until a ‘no deal’ Brexit Mr. Eastwood said: “It is uncomfortable listening for people who rely on frictionless travel and trade across this island.

“The warnings underscore the critical need for a backstop to protect the interests of people, communities and businesses on this island.

“It is worth repeating that there is majority support for the withdrawal agreement and backstop in the Assembly.

“Yet our interests and our voice has been sidelined by a British Government intent on driving off the cliff edge and our own MPs who have facilitated this disaster or who will not act to prevent it. Either way, we now need to call time on it.

“People in NI did not vote for this. The Tory/DUP government at Westminster has no majority and it has no mandate for a hard border here. Sinn Féin has made it clear that they will not face Boris Johnson down and fight this where it counts. The SDLP is committed to stopping Boris Johnson, averting a no-deal Brexit and preventing the return of a border on this island.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that rather than introduce new customs checks for Irish people if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit the Taoiseach and Tánaiste should instead demand a unity referendum under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Any imposition of custom checks is completely unacceptable.

“It is political vandalism which grossly undermines the Good Friday Agreement and we cannot allow it to be forced upon our country because of the intransigence of right-wing Brexiteers within the Tory party supported by the DUP. Any impediment to trade and movement on this island will damage border communities, harm the economy and undermine the architecture of the peace process. Such checks should not be countenanced by the Government and the Taoiseach’s comments last night are extremely unhelpful.”

She said Irish unity was an obvious way out of the dilemma.

“The EU has already confirmed that a reunified Ireland will be entitled to automatic re-entry and the reconciliation of our country is the obvious and clearly sustainable solution to the problem of the border.”