5 Times Brexiteers Were Tone-Deaf Over The Irish Border Concerns

The Irish border has proved to be a major obstacle in progressing Brexit talks, with politicians in EU-member Ireland seeking assurances there will be no return to a ‘hard’ border with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Dublin’s effective veto over a Brexit ‘divorce’ package has meant some of the loudest cheerleaders for quitting the European Union have had to consider how people feel on the other side of the Irish sea.

But other people’s feelings don’t seem to be their strong suit, as critics have seized on some Brexiteers for being dismissive of their concerns or not really grasping basic details. 

1. Bernard Jenkin: Thinks two former Irish leaders were “prime ministers of Northern Ireland”. 

Appearing on Sky News, the Conservative MP suggested ex-Irish leaders were more amenable over the border issue than the present Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

He said: “If you listen to Bertie Ahern, if you listen to Enda Kelly – these are two former Taoiseachs, Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland.

“They haven’t quite played ball like the present Irish Prime Minister.”

The former Fine Gael leader is actually called Enda Kenny, and Northern Ireland is not led by a Taoiseach. Social media was swift to point out the errors.

2. Iain Duncan Smith: Calls concerns over the border “this Irish stuff” and overplays Irish elections.

On the BBC, the ex-Conservative leader stated “this Irish stuff was not at this state some months ago”, suggesting Brexit talks had stalled because it would play well in Irish elections.

He said: “This Irish stuff was not at this state some months ago, now it’s suddenly become an issue because the Irish – for political reasons internally, presidential elections, disputes between two elements of the same party – they suddenly laid this on.

“And the EU, instead of saying to them, pull back for a second, let’s deal with this when we get to the trade arrangements, which would be logical sense, has actually backed them in this process.”

IDS seems confused about what the President does (“a largely ceremonial role”), when there are elections (next year) and where “disputes” may lie (he seems actually to be referring to two parties). 

He also neglects Sir John Major, one of Duncan Smith’s predecessors as Tory leader, warning repeatedly before the vote that Brexit could mean border control is introduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

3. Owen Paterson: Trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland is “small”.

The former Northern Ireland Secretary of State suggested the issue was “small” on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“The border has a very small amount of trade. Only five per cent is across the border,” he said.

“It is really very irresponsible of politicians to make a statement like that, saying they are going to force and blackmail the UK into giving a special status for Northern Ireland outside the rest of the UK.

“It would be very easy to license the tankers that cross the border every day as authorised economic operators.

“They would be recognised and allowed to pass, and all invoices would be done electronically.

“It really is just a very small problem that can be resolved if there is a will.”

And repeated the suggestion.

The BBC’s Reality Check begged to differ, contending: “The Republic of Ireland is a much more important destination for exports from Northern Ireland than Mr Paterson’s figures suggest.”

4. John Redwood: The Irish border is not an issue that “really matters”. 

The Conservative MP tweeted how phase one of the UK-EU talks – which have to be completed before trashing out a trade deal, Brussels insists – is not what “really matters”.

To be clear, phase one includes the multi-billion pound ‘divorce’ bill, EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit and the Irish border.

5. Nadine Dorries: Re-imaging peace talks.

As the Democratic Unionist Party blocked Theresa May’s deal to solve the border row, Tory MP Nadine Dorries praised Ulster unionists for repeating the same tactics they deployed over the Good Friday Agreement. 

Plenty of people pointed out that she may have been mis-reading history and the DUP didn’t actually back it.