Stop and search zone plans spark fears of hard border after Brexit

August 13, 2018

Any proposals to introduce stop and search procedures for people crossing the border in the wake of Brexit will be vehemently opposed, nationalist politicians have insisted.  The warning came as it emerged that  proposed new legislation which is currently working its way through Westminster contains controversial powers which mean any member of the public could be stopped, searched and detained within a mile-wide strip of the border.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill has already passed committee stage at Westminster and could become law by the end of the year. The proposed legislation could introduce a mile-wide strip along the border where an “examining officer” may question a person to ascertain if they are engaged in “hostile activity” or to establish if they are entering or leaving the north.

The planned new laws will also see stop and search tactics used on passengers in train stations if “it is the first place at which a train travelling from the Republic of Ireland stops for the purposes of allowing passengers to leave”.  Effectively, this means train passengers arriving from the Republic to Newry train station, around six miles away from the border, could be stopped, searched and detained.

Local and national politicians have slammed the introduction of the bill, with Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill accusing the British Government of duplicity over the new legislation ‘which is clearly preparing for a hard border in Ireland’.

 “The use of stop and search powers is already a cause of massive concern in nationalist areas and if powers as wide-ranging as these were introduced, it would be disastrous,” Ms O’Neill said, adding that the bill runs counter to human rights provisions and the Good Friday Agreement, as well as contravening the principles of the European Common Travel Area. 

She said it is clear that the government is preparing for the imposition of a hard border in Ireland,”in direct contravention to the assurances they gave to the European Union last December. It is sheer duplicity and the Irish Government and the EU 27 cannot allow them to renege on those guarantees.

Locally, SDLP MLA Justin McNulty branded the border zone proposals an “outrageous assault on border life and on the Good Friday Agreement of which the UK Government is a co-guarantor.”

“The UK government appear to neither care about nor understand the anxiety they are causing through their unwillingness to recognise the importance of no interference with the freedom of movement of people, goods and services here,” said Mr McNulty.  

The Newry and Armagh MLA added that, “despite two years of platitudes, the UK Government and their DUP sidekicks have taken absolutely no opportunities to provide meaningful reassurance on post-Brexit arrangements. To make these provisions at this time is unbelievably tone deaf.”  

Slamming the proposals as “an affront” to the Good Friday Agreement he said people in border counties are again “the casualties of the British government’s incompetence.”

“We have been consistently clear that the North must stay part of the Single Market and Customs Union in order to prevent any border either on this island or down the Irish Sea.”