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View from the house: Stop Brexit and preserve Irish border

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 December 2017

Mike Gapes

Mike Gapes

Archant

One of the greatest achievements of Tony Blair’s Labour government was to end “the troubles” and bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

Twenty years ago I was Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Northern Ireland Office working for Political Development Minister Paul Murphy and Secretary of State Mo Mowlam in the difficult, complex negotiations leading to the April 1998 Belfast or Good Friday Agreement.

Three weeks ago I visited Dublin with the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee for discussions with our Irish counterparts, and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and former President Mary McAleese.

We also met business organisations in Dublin and in Cavan on the border with Northern Ireland.

There are no physical checks or barriers. Farms and fields are on both sides. A road we drove on went out of and back into the Irish Republic several times.

At present the UK and the Irish Republic are both in the European Union, the Single Market and Customs Union.

But if Theresa May and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party get their way Britain and Northern Ireland will leave not just the EU but also the Single Market and the Customs Union.

A hard border will be a disaster for all Ireland businesses such as milk producers, and the all Ireland veterinary system.

Tony Blair is right to warn that the Good Friday Agreement is at risk.

The only sensible solution is for both the United Kingdom and Ireland to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union.

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