The new Chief of Northern Ireland’s Police has warned that leaving the European Union (Brexit) without a deal could have a detrimental impact on two decades of peace in the British-run Province.
The warning by Chief Constable Simon Byrne (pictured) followed repeated claims by the head of the Province’s Public Service, David Sterling that a so-called hard Brexit would have some of its worst effects in Northern Ireland.
Chief Constable Byrne said he did not how he was supposed to police the almost 300 border crossings the Province shares with the Irish Republic.
Britain, Ireland and the EU want to avoid a return of physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before a 1998 peace deal between Catholic nationalists seeking a united Ireland and Protestant unionists who wanted to keep Northern Ireland British.
“We are worried that in the short term a hard Brexit will create a vacuum which becomes a rally call and recruiting ground for dissident republicans and clearly any rise in their popularity or their capability would be very serious,” Chief Constable Byrne said.
He said his officers were in discussion with senior PS staff to make their concerns clear and he was looking to London in particular for advice on how the border should be policed ahead of the scheduled 31 October exit.
Chief Constable Byrne said he also worried the economic damage of a no-deal Brexit could lead to unrest.
“If we go into a worst-case scenario … if tariffs change, we will see the prospect of animals being culled, people going out of business, that may lead to unrest,” he said.
“The minute we go into the border in that regard our worry is my officers and staff become a target for the dissident Republicans.”
Belfast, 15 July 2019