Politics Today: Fears that Irish border checks after Brexit could spiral into violence

Politics Today:

Fears have been raised today that Irish border checks after Brexit could spark violence - with a poll finding a fifth of Catholics would back protests.

A report found fierce resistance to tougher border restrictions either on the island of Island or between the province and the rest of Britain.

There was a 'strong expectation' that any dispute would 'quickly deteriorate into violence' with people threatening to block traffic and vandalise cameras, according to the UK in a Changing Europe study.

The future of the Irish border has emerged as critical in the Brexit negotiations, with the UK and the EU engaged in bitter wrangling over how to avoid imposing 'hard' customs checks.

Brussels has dismissed the government's options of either a customs partnership or a 'Maximum Facilitation' technological solution.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has rejected the idea of drawing a border in the Irish sea, warning that breaking up the UK could never be acceptable.

If the UK crashes of the bloc out without any kind of deal there would automatically be a hard border.

Brexit minister Steve Baker appeared to accuse Brussels of 'running a scam' to keep Britain tied to the bloc last night.

He retweeted a series of messages on Twitter pointing out that there are already border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The poll, conducted for the Economic and Social Research Council, found one in five Catholics found the possible use of cameras at the Irish border 'almost impossible to accept' and would support protests such as traffic being blocked.

Some 9 per cent of Catholics suggested they would support cameras being vandalised.

The report said: 'There is substantial and intense opposition to possible north-south border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and to east-west border checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

'There are strong expectations that protests against either north-south or east-west border checks would quickly deteriorate into violence.'

The research found 61 per cent of the population favoured the UK as a whole remaining in the customs union and single market.

Some 69 per cent said they would vote Remain if there was another referendum - up from 56 per cent when the national ballot took place two years ago.

Catholics were much more likely to support a united Ireland if there was a 'hard exit' in which the UK left the customs union and single market.

A united Ireland was supported by 28 per cent of Catholics if the UK was to stay in the EU, while the figure rose to 53 per cent if there was a 'hard' exit with Britain leaving the customs union and single market.

Principal investigator John Garry, Professor of Political Behaviour at Queen's University Belfast, said: 'We find Catholics and Protestants most prefer the option that would avoid the need for any new barriers on borders.

'Either in the Irish Sea or across Ireland. They want the UK as a whole to stay in the customs union and single market.'

He added: 'However, what may surprise people is the extent to which Catholics oppose all borders within these islands.'

Writing on the Times website today, DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted the people of Northern Ireland did not want to see conflict.

Unionists want to live in harmony with their nationalist neighbours. They want to grow our economy and share prosperity. They want the next generation to live in better times,' she wrote.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Business Secretary Greg Clark have been visiting Northern Ireland as part of their work on future customs arrangements with the EU after Brexit.

The trio met cross-border companies as part of their working group focusing on a proposed 'Max Fac' option for tackling one of the thorniest outstanding issues.

The Prime Minister has split her ministers into two teams as they work towards a reconciliation on how to manage arrangements with the EU after the exit.

One group - Brexiteers Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Remain-backing Cabinet Office minister David Lidington are considering a 'customs partnership' - which would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of the EU.

A statement from the Brexit Department said: 'Both of the customs models currently under consideration are designed to meet the UK's three guiding principles: allowing us to trade goods and services as freely as possible with the EU, enable us to have an independent trade policy, and avoiding any hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland while maintaining the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.'

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