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.”



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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