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Home Office u-turn over ‘Border Farce’ recruitment drive

A recruitment drive for a new post-brexit Border Force in Ireland has been withdrawn amid mounting pressure from political parties on both sides of the border over its “discriminatory” criteria of restricting applications to only British passport holders. 

In a major u-turn, the Home Office has apologised for what it said was an “error” and will now withdraw and re-advertise more than 1,000 jobs with the British passport requirement removed. 

The recruitment campaign began last month, with hundreds of jobs advertised for the enforcement body which would deal with immigration and customs checks. 21 of the positions are based in Belfast, but only British passport holders were eligible to apply for  

the ‘reserved posts’ – which under British government civil service rules means “only UK nationals may be employed” as the roles usually “require special allegiance to the crown”.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy had previously hit out at the campaign, branding it “naked discrimination of a public sector position, and a statement of intent to impose a Brexit border in Ireland.”   The Newry and Armagh MLA, said the drive shows “that the Tories see a hard border as the predetermined outcome of the Brexit negotiations despite the fact they have already agreed to an option to avoid it.” 

Rejecting what he described as a “Tory-DUP Brexit border across Ireland,” Mr Murphy added,

“This is a deeply damaging, disruptive and dangerous position, rejected overwhelmingly by the people of this island.”

The Sinn Fein MLA accused the British Government of “ignoring the democratic expressions of Irish citizens” and said it pointed to “the Tory-DUP pact’s growing disregard for the Good Friday Agreement, which allows citizens to determine their own identity free from discrimination.”

The recruitment drive raised widespread concerns, with the SDLP’s Claire Hanna describing it as “exclusionary and chilling.”  The party’s Brexit spokesperson, branded the ensuing climbdown by the Home Office a “border farce” and “yet another example of the UK simply not understanding or caring enough about the different and specific impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland”.

She said the question still remains however about “what border these employees will be guarding.” 

“No border on this island is acceptable or possible, and it is increasingly clear that staying in both the customs union and single market is the only way to address the disastrous impact of Brexit,” she added.

Last week, the Home Office said the UK-wide recruitment campaign covers port and airport locations, but will also “respond flexibly to emerging requirements, including any future requirements as a result of EU exit”.