Tories threaten partition, once again

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The Tory Brexit campaign is sliding towards a “take it or leave it” showdown with the EU amid an increasingly bloody-minded approach by British officials.

There were furious condemnations this week of Tory extremist Jacob Rees-Mogg after he he said Britain could use “historic arrangements” to control the Irish population after Brexit.

“There would be our ability, as we had during the Troubles, to have people inspected,” he said.

“It’s not a border that everyone has to go through every day. But of course for security reasons during the Troubles, we kept a very close eye on the border to try and stop gun-running and things like that.”

Nationalist politicians have long warned that the British government is acting in bad faith in regard to the 1998 Good Friday peace Agreement.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Mairtin O Muilleoir said “Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Tory Brexiteers have again shown contempt and a complete disregard for the people of Ireland north and south.

“Anyone labouring under the misapprehension that the Tories care a jot about the north is living in a fool’s paradise.”

The SDLP’s Claire Hanna branded Rees-Mogg’s remarks as “pig ignorant”.

“It is offensive that a senior politician would use the ‘Troubles’ as benchmark for solving the border issue,” she said.

“This unguarded answer exposes how empty all the honeyed phrases about not returning to ‘the borders of the past’ over the last two years really are.”

There was no denial of the comments by Theresa May or others in the leadership of the Conservative Party. Instead, Theresa May indicated that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would “not be the end of the world”, again infuriating nationalist politicians.

Britain has previously pledged to maintain an open border in Ireland but has made no progress on agreeing how it would work. The deadline for an agreement is October, but that looks likely to slip to November. If no agreement is reached by then the prospect of a no-deal scenario or ‘crash Brexit’ looks increasingly likely.

Last week, ‘technical guidance’ published by the British government suggested cross-Border businesses should simply contact Dublin for advice in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is in line with warnings that the British simply intend to launch a blame game against Brussels and Dublin over the return of border checks.

Sinn Fein’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill said the Tories had shown “absolute contempt and blatant disregard” for the people of the North. She called for a special London-Brussels meeting to solely deal with the North.

Party colleague Martina Anderson said it was becoming “clearer by the day” that the Tories are now actively planning for a no-deal Brexit, “whether by design or by accident as a result of the fact that they have no coherent strategy.” She accused Theresa May of “a total lack of empathy” and “disdain” for those in Ireland.

“It is characteristic of the attitude of Tory Brexiteers, particularly towards the north of Ireland where the true extent of a no-deal Brexit will be fell most acutely,” she said.

“Theresa May might not think it’s the end of the world but it will be the end of many of the rights we take for granted.”

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the British government had resiled from the ‘backstop’ agreement in December under which it said the North would remain within the single market and customs union in the absence of an overall deal.

“The onus therefore is on the Irish government to step up its engagement with the EU to ensure that Europe sticks to the backstop agreement and that everything is done to protect the two economies on this island and in particular the rights of EU citizens in the north,” he said.

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