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Point of no return; BERTIE SAYS BORDERS OF THE PAST WILL NOT BE ALLOWED; Ahern warns local residents would 'pull down' Brexit barriers; Former taoisigh tell of their fears over future deal with UK.

Byline: FERGHAL BLANEY Political Reporter

BERTIE Ahern believes there will never be a return to a hard border as he warned the Government not to rush a deal.

June is the deadline European Council President Donald Tusk has imposed on Britain to produce a Brexit solution.

Mr Ahern believes local communities would "pull down with their bare hands" any new borders.

The former Taoiseach said ultimately, when it comes down to it, the boundary is not coming back.

Mr Ahern added: "I don't want to be either emotive or alarmist about it, but the idea of us seeing come back any kind of a border would be a disaster and I don't believe it would ever happen.

"I don't believe it would ever happen, you wouldn't have to wait for violence, the communities on both sides of the borders with their bare hands would pull down any of any sort.

"The one fear I have, and I suppose the one piece of advice, I really think the Government should try and conclude as much as they can in June on this.

"I think running it close, running it down to Halloween in October is dangerous, because, this will be my fear if you come down to the last few days my fear is that our Taoiseach will be called in by the French and the Germans, by the Commission presidency, and it will be put to them.

"Listen, the British are paying their PS50billion, they are ready to move on the freedom of movement, they are ready to move on a whole lot of other issues and we have a good EU trade agreement.

"We have a transition to the end of December 2020, maybe beyond, and the future relationship which can't be agreed until the UK are out of the European Union, and we don't think you Irish should push just as hard as you are pushing.

"We think, it's two o'clock in the morning, maybe you should be looking at a bit of a compromise - that's how it works.

"The Irish Government are doing well, but I don't think they should be having a Halloween party at two o'clock in the morning on that day."

Mr Ahern was one of three former taoisigh speaking at a special Brexit conference organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs in the historic Round Room of Dublin's Mansion House yesterday.

The three men all played a part in the negotiation or implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which is now under threat in light of Brexit.

John Bruton told the hundreds of IIEA members and guests the UK's decision is an "unmitigated tragedy" in terms of wasted manhours, while Brian Cowen said the British need to step up to the plate and put some "flesh on the bones" of exactly what it will mean for Ireland. Mr Bruton told of his concerns about the massive waste of people's time, both North and South, that will have to be diverted towards implementing Brexit.

He said: "The amount of civil service and executive time that is being taken up by Brexit up to Brexit day and will be absorbed by Brexit afterwards, for years and years and years to come, this will be a huge diversion of talented Ahern, John Cowen yesterday people that we need to be building a dynamic society.

Mr Bruton added: "The diversion of talent that Brexit constitutes is an unmitigated tragedy for Britain, for Ireland and for Europe."

Mr Cowen said it is imperative that we see progress from the British government fast.

He added: "Constructive ambiguity can only get you so far, but eventually concrete specifics have to be addressed."

Meanwhile, Theresa May has insisted the UK must leave the customs union after Brexit in order to strike trade deals around the world. The British Prime Minister is facing a series of parliamentary battles in the coming weeks over the UK's future customs arrangements with the EU.

After a massive defeat on the issue in the House of Lords, pro-European Tory MPs are set to voice their concerns over withdrawal from the customs union on Thursday.

But speaking on a local election campaign visit, Mrs May insisted that she would not change course.

She said arrangements which are as "frictionless as possible" with the EU and the ability to strike trade deals around the world were both achievable under the proposals set out by the Government.

On a visit to a firm in the West Midlands she told the BBC: "Coming out of the customs union means that we will be free to have those deals, deals that suit the UK.

"But I also recognise the importance to businesses like this of being able to have as frictionless a border as possible into the European Union."

news@irishmirror.ie

For years to come this will be a diversion of talented people BRUTON I think running it close, running it down is dangerous AHERN Eventually concrete specifics have to be addressed COWEN

CAPTION(S):

LEADERS Bertie Ahern, John Bruton and Brian Cowen yesterday

CONCERN Mock checkpoint at border protest last year
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 24, 2018
Words:854
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