A ‘hard border’ across Ireland is “unthinkable” and could be devastating for the North, Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor has warned.
“A hard border is really inconceivable and no longer viable and would be detrimental in so many different levels and arenas of life,” Dr Treanor told The Irish Catholic, highlighting the needs of the North and the growing interconnectivity recent decades have seen across Ireland.
“The level of the economic interdependence and enwebment of the economy of the Republic of Ireland and the economy of Northern Ireland is such that any kind of hard border cannot but have a profound negative impact”.
Such a border, he said, could be devastating for the North, already suffering the highest levels of child poverty of any British region, with the high levels of illiteracy this typically entails, an underdeveloped private sector, and a desperate need to attract foreign direct investment.
Dr Treanor, who served as general secretary to COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, from 1989 to 2008, and who represents Ireland’s bishops on the commission, also said that while a hard border was inconceivable, it is difficult to see how there could be a soft border in Ireland between the UK and the EU given the British government’s stated intention to leave the single market and the customs union.
“A soft border there,” he said, continuing, “does that mean a hard border between Ulster and Britain somewhere out in the sea of Moyle and down the Irish Sea? If it does, what does that mean in terms of the future? What internal impact will this entail in terms of the constitutionality of the United Kingdom?”
Calling for clarity and transparency in the Brexit negotiations, Dr Treanor highlighted how the visit to Ireland in May of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier showed the importance of Ireland and the border issue to the EU.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, has said he hopes the UK will yet pull back from the decision to leave the EU such that there would be no need for a border across Ireland or between Ireland and Britain.
Asked in Waterford whether there was any chance of the Brexit process being halted, he said, “I still hope that it won’t happen.” Stressing that “Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish one”, he said that in his work in the EU it is part of his remit working in the EU “to keep the door open, not just to the European Union but also to the single market and also to the customs union should they decide to go down that route”.
He described this as “the best outcome for Ireland and Northern Ireland and Britain”.
For full interview with Bishop Treanor, see 'Sailing in Unchartable Waters'.