Brexit border controls will lead to ‘murder attempts on officers’, PSNI tells MPs
Police officers are “highly foreseeable” targets of a murderous terror campaign if border checks return to post-Brexit United Kingdom, MPs have been warned.
And dissident IRA groups are exploiting the “uncertainty” surrounding the UK’s upcoming exit from the European Union to recruit new members and raise funds, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) claims.
Violent republicans will use the tensions over the future of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland to further their aims, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said.
He told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday (June 27) that the likelihood of additional personnel around the border area, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs staff, would lead to a need for police protection – and an increase in subsequent risks to the lives of police officers.
Mr Martin said: “I chose my words carefully because when we’re giving evidence it’s very important we’re apolitical and I think it’s something we have to be scrupulous around. I make no observation on the politics of Brexit.”
But he added: “I have no doubt that if there is an enhanced policing profile, even if that policing profile is in support of other agencies doing mobile compliance checking for example, yards or other places then I think it is highly foreseeable that there will be attacks on the police and attempts to murder police officers if that situation was to occur.”
The threat of checks being re-introduced would allow dissidents, as well as organised crime gangs and international terrorists, to view the border as a gateway to the UK, he said.
“The dissidents will seek to exploit the outworking of Brexit if they’re able to exploit it,” he told the committee.
“That will be in terms of trying to garner support, a narrative around the re-emphasising of partition, depending on what Brexit looks like.
“They will engage in that discourse and they will seek to engender support and seek to recruit on the back of that.”
Mr Martin confirmed they are currently able to recruit successfully.
He also insisted a new customs regime could offer terror gangs the “lucrative” chance to raise funds, were there to be “a disparity in tariffs for example, on elicit cigarettes, fuel or robberies”.
MPs were keen to hear evidence from the force after concerns had been raised by the chief constable over the consequences of the UK no longer being a part of the European Arrest Warrant, and the cancellation of plans to sell three former police stations close to the border.
The committee had asked for an update on the PSNI’s planning for post-Brexit policing, additional challenges the force faces after the UK leaves the EU, and what cross-border policing and intelligence mechanisms that exist at present will need to replaced.
Chief Constable George Hamilton told MPs that no one appeared to be in charge of sorting out Brexit-related issues with regard to policing, saying he had not had a meeting with the Prime Minister on the subject – having last met her in October.
The force had no “go-to co-ordinator to assist us, to help us navigate our way through it”, adding: “With the lack of a nominated person, either a senior official or a minister, to say I’m taking responsibility for co-ordinating all of these difficulties and challenges, operational and strategic and constitutional, around the border issue in the post-Brexit scenario, we feel like we are in the dark around all this.
“We do feel a little bit isolated and an orphan in this.”