The EU has put further pressure on the Brexit talks by confirming it will enforce a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal outcome, despite the risk this would pose to peace.
In comments that proved highly uncomfortable for Dublin, the chief spokesman for Jean-Claude Juncker the European commission president, told reporters in Brussels it was “pretty obvious” border infrastructure would be necessary if the UK were to leave without an agreement.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, was caught on tape last week indicating his fellow ministers should not talk about the resumption of border checks publicly for fear of a backlash.
In a private conversation, he told the Irish transport minister, Shane Ross, “once you start talking about checks anywhere near the border, people will start delving into that and all of a sudden we’ll be the government that reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland”.
But the Juncker’s spokesman said on Tuesday the likely enforcement of border checks could not be avoided.
“If you were to push me to speculate on what might happen in a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it is pretty obvious you will have a hard border, and our commitments to the Good Friday agreement and everything we have been doing for years with our tools, instruments and programmes will have to take inevitably into account this fact,” he said.
“So of course we are for peace. Of course we stand behind the Good Friday agreement, but that is what no-deal would entail.”