PSNI chief constable says hard Brexit would be 'detrimental' to peace process

The chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has warned that a hard Brexit would have an “absolutely detrimental” impact on the peace process.

During a press conference in Belfast, Simon Byrne painted a stark picture of a potential worst-case scenario of farms and agricultural businesses going bust and animals being culled, leading to potential unrest within communities.

Asked if a hard Brexit would have a detrimental impact, he replied: “Absolutely detrimental.” He added: “Because we know there is a small number of people – bearing in mind how many people live happily and peacefully here – but a small number of people intent on disruption and causing really serious harm.”

Byrne also said he wanted answers from London as to how the PSNI was supposed to police the 300 border crossings in the face of the dissident republican threat that could increase with a hard Brexit.

“I think 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,” he said.

Byrne said his officers were having discussions with senior civil servants to “make plain” thePSNI’s concerns.

“We are and I am concerned about how Brexit may or may not play out in weeks ahead,” he said.

“Firstly, we are all in the same place that we don’t quite know where things will go and we have prepared as well as we can, both as a PSNI and with other organisations.

“But on specifics, if we have a hard border the question I have for London, frankly, is how do we police that hard border?

“You’ll know how many crossings there are between the two countries, nearly 300 – and that’s the official ones. So I think it raises a whole raft of issues around the potential for smuggling.”

Byrne said that apart from the policing dimension, his personal concern would be understanding the effects on agriculture.

“If tariffs change and drop, we will see the prospect of animals being culled and people going out of business. That may lead to unrest and we are having to protect other agencies as we go to support new arrangements,” he said.

The chief constable’s warning came after the Republic of Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, predicted the UK was facing decades of economic decline following Brexit, as the nation struggled to cope with a diminishing position on the world stage.

On Friday, Varadkar told Newstalk radio that the UK would “fall into relative economic decline for many decades, probably be overtaken by France again. Slowly over time, it’ll be overtaken by lots of countries in Asia.”

He added: “I think that one of the difficulties for Britain is that they’re struggling to cope with the fact that as a country and an economy they’re not as important in the world as they used to be.”


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