Theresa May’s new assurances on the border and consultation raise more questions than provide answers

In advance of the Conservative party conference and with speculation running about a hard Brexit, Theresa May has given an interview to  BBC  Scotland and BBC Northern Ireland to try to assure  their  governments  that they won’t be ignored in formulating  the UK Brexit strategy. This is in spite of the UK government’s insistence in court that Brexit is a matter reserved to Westminster and there is no legal  requirement to consult them. Politics however is a different matter.

I discovered this gem when I noticed she had given an interview to BBC NI. Guessing this was unlikely to be unique I clicked on BBC Scotland and lo, similar stuff appeared. Poor old Wales seems to have been left out – perhaps because they voted for Leave.

Both BBC News web pages sort of pretended their interview was unique but the giveaway was two fold:   the particular references to Northern Ireland and Scotland were brief and the general references to “making a success of Brexit…. the best deal etc..” were the same, apart from substituting “Scotland” for “Northern Ireland”. I guess she wrapped it up in about 8 minutes. The apparently brief interview or interviews  raised more questions than answers. The most interesting point is that she bothered to give it at all. “No  return to the borders of the past” doesn’t necessarily  mean an open border. ” Free movement” across the line can mean checks in various forms further inland.

Extracts  .


But speaking to BBC News NI at Downing Street on Friday, Mrs May said she agreed with the Irish government and Northern Ireland Executive about not seeing a “return to the borders of the past”.

She would work “closely together” with them to ensure free movement across the border, she added.

Mrs May denied that she had changed her view.

“What I said was that of course if we leave and there is a land border with a country within the European Union, that does bring a change to that relationship across the border,” she said.

“All parties are clear about the intent and will to ensure we have an arrangement that isn’t a return to the borders of the past.”

Questioned on how the border would be policed or controlled after Brexit, Mrs May said: “We are discussing with the Irish government at the moment how we can develop these ideas in ways that are going to ensure that we deliver on the intention of all parties.”

One of Ms May’s first acts as prime minister was to visit Belfast, and she has pledged that the Northern Ireland Executive would be fully involved in Brexit discussions.

We are going to make a success of Brexit, there are real opportunities for the United Kingdom,” she said.

“We need to grasp those opportunities around the world but the devolved administrations will all be – and the government in Belfast will be – involved and fully engaged in the discussions we are having.”


UK Prime Minister Theresa May wants the Scottish government “fully engaged” in Brexit talks but insists her government will take the lead in all areas.

Mrs May emphasised that ministers in Edinburgh could have no veto over the process.

The Conservative leader spoke to BBC Scotland ahead of her party’s conference in Birmingham.

She also said she was firmly against the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June’s referendum, Scottish politicians have called for more detail about their role in the coming Brexit negotiations.

The prime minister said she would engage with Holyrood “on the issues that particularly matter to Scotland”.

Asked about the fact 62% of Scots who turned out in June voted to remain in the EU, the Conservative party leader said the “overall” UK had voted to leave.

She said: “What I am very clear about is that, as we look into these negotiations, we will fully engage the Scottish government in the discussions that we have, in preparing what position that the UK is going to take.

“But also we are going to make a success of this. We need to ensure that we get the best deal, the right deal for the UK in trade of goods and services, deliver for people on their desire for control of movement of people from the EU into the UK.

“But also alongside that, we look at the opportunities that will open up to us when we leave the EU for trade around the rest of the world. I want us to be a global leader in free trade, and make sure those opportunities are spread across the UK.”



, , , , , , ,

  • Oriel27

    agreed Billy, a lot of people will be extremely, and rightfully angry at the British Governments total lack of regards for the peace process, lack of regards for the economic prosperity of Ireland North and South, and lack of regards for the brilliant peace we have had for the last 20 years on the border and peace and tranquility we share we our neighbors of all religions.

  • Oriel27

    Nobody at the minute, because its like a real-time film, its new and unfolding as it happens. There was more now waffle at the Tory conference yesterday. No body can understand what the hell this brexit thing is. The Irish government need to become more vocal and demand answers now going forward.

  • Oriel27

    Borders affect everyone from all sides.

  • Oriel27

    People didnt travel as much then. Ireland wasnt as economic prosperous. There wast that need to move around as much. That was different times.

  • Oriel27

    totally agreed. Of course they can have their border on the map surely, but on the ground – no way. If the British insist on it, the Irish government must insist on the borders being at the sea for North and South. The irish border doesn’t run along a natural border such as rivers, lakes and mountains. The border were i live divides my parish, the road it the border in some parts.

  • Oriel27

    you are correct, i dont want a bloody border poll, its divisive, its uncall for. I just want the bloody road to stay open and let me get to work or to the shop, or neighbours in peace. I dont want to be stopped and asked for ID everytime – the ques, the hatred, the anguish.
    I was in Glaslough at the weekend at Castle Leslie and it was heartening to see the massive cross border trade etc. That road to Armagh was closed for 30 years – cratered. There was a 10 mile diversion in place. Do we want a return to that?

  • Oriel27

    Why is your outlook so hateful, so divisive, so narrow minded, so bigoted?.
    Can you not see a border will be detrimental to unionists as well?
    On other posts you talk about – we this, we that, our economy this and that, you think NI is an integral part of the UK, paying its far share etc ?- your arse. its a hind tit of the UK economy and the UK mainland never cared about it. So you can blather on about how great brexit it – but be warned, Brexit will end in disaster for your outlook.

  • Katyusha

    Yes, Chris, really. The tariffs you are talking about only come in in the event of a hard Brexit which no party in the RoI wants. NI and RoI are on the same side there.

    You are right that it is not their duty to protect NI farmers. That is up to our own executive; with the DUP campaigning through Brexit to cut off both EU agricultural subsidies and access to a sizeable export market, they’re doing a pretty shoddy job of protecting farmers. If they wanted to drive farmers out of business, they couldn’t have picked a better strategy.

  • lizmcneill

    You mean if the UK insists on no freedom of movement?

  • lizmcneill

    Dublin – 2 hours drive from Belfast
    London – 11 hours drive from Belfast
    Glasgow – 5 hours drive from Belfast
    Edinburgh – 6 hours drive
    Manchester – 7 hours drive

    All of which involve paying for a ferry, so, no, farther and more expensive.

  • lizmcneill

    The border could be managed fine if the UK would agree to freedom of movement. Unfortunately May is still insisting that they don’t want a Norway deal or a Swiss deal.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I know, it would be much easier.

    I wonder if what they’ll end up is a new updated bilateral UK-ROI treaty confirming / updating freedom of movement between both countries for all citizens of either (basically the CTA). Non-Irish EU citizens – the real issue here – would be allowed in NI with pretty relaxed quotas, so you could avoid border checks on ID for individuals entering NI. Any people entering without work etc would be picked up later when trying to claim benefits, for example, and could be deported from the island entirely. It needn’t be a border issue. But they’ll need a beefed up force to police this while keeping the border open. The UK could fund this on both sides. Further quotas and checks could be applied for any EU national going from NI to mainland Britain. I don’t think this is much of an imposition on internal UK travel for UK citizens as we have to show ID anyway when flying.

    I may be way off there in terms of practicalities but it doesn’t seem impossible. If we find NI inundated with EU citizens, they can have their visas processed in the same way as they are in mainland UK, which isn’t all done at the border. They’ll need visas / documentation to work and to claim benefits. There will have to be investment in staffing to manage all this but it doesn’t seem impossible. There is the issue of a risk of a build up of large numbers of EU citizens from poorer countries in NI illegally without work who might need to be deported. That becomes a policing and deportation issue for them – nasty business for them, but has to be done – but it would be hived off from the protected freedom of movement right for Irish and British citizens within the CTA.

  • lizmcneill

    The practicalities of checking passports at points where ID is already being checked certainly seem to be more viable than along a 300-mile land border. The only downside to this scenario I see is the psychological effect on the DUP and their voters but maybe they could have a few more flag days at City Hall in return, or something.

    It wouldn’t take much to have net EU emigration from NI if the economic consequences of Brexit are bad. This would be made easier by the numbers of Irish passport holders who would retain their right to settle in the EU.

    However I’m very dubious about the abilities of our Tory leaders to negotiate such a deal by March 2019, given that they’re currently insisting that they want to continue in the single market without freedom of movement or being under the European Court of Justice. NI and its problems will be made to wait until someone comes up with a workable plan for the rest of the UK.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Are you taking your lead from Maurice Morrow? I’ve just heard him on the 1pm news come out with almost exactly the same line as your final paragraph. A hopeless and embarrassing contribution from the member of the House of Lords designed no doubt to mask a complete lack of understanding of the issue and the total absence of any ideas on how best to move forward.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think we need some kind of idea what the relationship with the EU will be. But I think as the UK-ROI relationship will be a special one requiring a specific agreement anyway, they can get on with working that out in parallel. I think they can flesh out quite a lot about what we want that border to be like, without prejudice to our dealings with the rest of the EU, who will be on different terms. It’s beyond debate that we have a special relationship with the Irish.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘….The boundary commission would have improved the balance by tens of thousands, but the leaked report was rejected by the Dail.’

    No, it wouldn’t have. It recommended minimal changes (hardly surprising in that the 3 man commission was 2/3 appointed by the British govt). Less than 10,000 people would have been transferred (and about a third would’ve gone from the IFS to NI) if the BC’s report was implemented. None of the towns mentioned above would’ve ended up in the Free State.

    Which of course is why it was rejected by the Dáil.

  • John Collins

    Who leaked the report and for what purpose?, When you consider that many of the main flashpoint areas, during the troubles, along the border would have probably ended up in the Republic and Kilmacrennan in Donegal and others areas with big Protestant populations would have ended up in NI, it would have been far better in the long run if the BC had been left alone to complete its work, whoever sabotaged it.

  • John Collins

    Don’t get too carried away Chris. When GB left in 1922 Dublin had the highest infant mortality in all Europe and slums worse that Calcutta. And just look at how Limerick has prospered under ROI rule compared to how Derry was developed under Unionist rule.
    And BTW there was plenty sex abuse cases in NI and GB, GB especially, which almost up to the present day have been badly handled.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’d also have a bit of an issue with it – us having to have internal checks within our actual sovereign state, just so nationalists can have unfettered movement within their imagined one. Seems to be going quite a way not to disrupt the “borderless Ireland virtual reality experience” some nationalists have lost themselves in.

    But as long as hassle is minimised all round I’m fine. What I would want to avoid is people coming and going east-west by plane or ferry having massive hassle – that isn’t acceptable. If I was assured things would take no longer than before then there’s no problem, I don’t mind the checks being done.

  • john millar

    “those who stuffed the UDR, RUC, and Ulster Unionism up the arssses of the Supremicist Unionist Terrorist regime) was the PIRA which only came into being in 1969.”

    If only they had done so instead of murdering unarmed civilians (Enniskillen Tebane Bloody Friday Kingsmill etc

  • Declan Doyle


  • lizmcneill

    I imagine there would be “fast lanes” for British passport holders so it would be pretty much the same as showing your ID today.

    The nationalists would probably make the argument that the border is arbitrary and imaginary anyway. Regardless, NI is cut off from the rest of the UK by the physical barrier of the sea, and to large portions even of the loyalist community, London is as remote as Brussels. Whereas if you live in Newry or Strabane, Dundalk or Lifford aren’t remote at all.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    arbitrary yes, it was a mistake to follow county boundaries. But I don’t think it’s “imaginary” (!!)

  • lizmcneill

    Short of some pretty major climate change it’s a lot more imaginary than the Irish Sea, though.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    all the world’s land borders are imaginary in that sense. Yet there they are. Seems maybe borders are about people, not just geography 🙂

  • john millar

    ” I want to hear them speak up loudly, constantly and unashamedly for the Irish people who happen to live in the UK.”

    lets see them get elected

  • NotNowJohnny

    I think the whole point of the post was that nationalism’s MPs already are elected. That’s what makes them MPs. I’m not sure what your point is here.

  • john millar

    Where are they elected where have they spoken?

  • NotNowJohnny

    I assume you mean where are they elected to?

    If that is the first question, Westminster is the answer.

    As to the question of where have they spoken, that is my point.