Donald Trump Has Compared The Irish Border To The Wall Between The US And Mexico

"The one thing we want to avoid is a wall," notes Irish premier Leo Varadkar.

In comments that appeared to astonish his Irish counterpart, US president Donald Trump has drawn a parallel with his planned wall between the United States and Mexico and the Irish border.

On his first official visit to Ireland since becoming president, Trump offered his thoughts on the border that remains the biggest outstanding issue over Brexit.

The end of ‘hard’ border checkpoints between the Irish republic and Northern Ireland was central to ending decades of violence known as the Troubles.

While all sides of the Brexit debate are anxious to maintain an ‘invisible’ dividing line between UK and what will be its only land border with EU, Trump by contrast was swept to power by promising a wall of steel on the US southern border.

At the start of a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach, or prime minister, Leo Varadkar in Shannon Airport, Trump said Brexit could be “very, very good for Ireland”.

“I think that will all work out, it will all work out very well and also for you, with your wall, your border,” he said.

“I mean we have a border situation in the United States. And you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well.”

Varadkar told Trump that Ireland wanted to avoid any wall or border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

“I think one thing we want to avoid, of course, is a wall or border between us,” he said.

US President Donald Trump (left) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hold a bilateral meeting at Shannon Airport, on the first day of the president's visit to the Republic of Ireland.
US President Donald Trump (left) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hold a bilateral meeting at Shannon Airport, on the first day of the president's visit to the Republic of Ireland.
PA Wire/PA Images

The US president agreed that the current free-flowing Irish border should be preserved.

“The way it works now is good and I think you want to try to keep it that way and I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit is your border,” he said.

“And I’m sure it’s going to work out well. I know they are focused very heavily on it.”

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Trump, Varadkar said the president had told him he believed it was possible to keep the Irish border open.

Asked if was concerned that Trump appeared to compare the Irish border with the US/Mexico border, the Taoiseach said: “We very much discussed the different nature of the border and I explained that 20 or 30 years ago we did have a hard border between north and south, particularly when the Troubles were happening and there were customs posts and so on, and that everyone in Ireland - north and south, unionist and nationalist - want to avoid a return to a hard border, but that Brexit is a threat in that regard and an unintended consequence that we can’t allow.”

Previous estimates suggest as many as 30,000 people cross the border every day, so both Northern Ireland and Ireland are keen to avoid the return of passport checks and police.

There are fears a hard border would be a huge step back for Ireland, endangering the Good Friday agreement and subjecting people to checkpoints similar to those in place during The Troubles.

The EU and UK hope to agree a trade deal that will avoid a hard border.

But a ‘backstop’ (Northern Ireland remaining part of the EU customs union and its VAT system) proposed in Theresa May’s ill-fated deal has been rejected by Brexiteers.

New technology and customs procedures - including “trusted trader” schemes and numberplate recognition - used instead of border checks has been dismissed as untried and untested.


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