“You talk about the issue of the Irish border, and one of the reasons that we have put forward the solution of a customs union is precisely because it does pay respect to the Good Friday Agreement in that way.
“But, and forgive me because this is not a popular thing to say, but actually, common sense tells you that, here, people have confused cause and effect, and the importance of the Good Friday Agreement in getting rid of the infrastructure on the Irish border was precisely because the watchtowers and the security paraphernalia and the soldiers standing there with guns were a target for paramilitary activity. And it was important to reomve that, to take away that target for paramilitary activity, and to go back to what was a normal border relationship. Now, we went back to that normal border relationship at a time when we were both – the UK and the Republic of Ireland – were in the EU, and so a normal border relationahip was a completely friction-free border. But that doesn’t mean that putting in a normal border relationship when one party is no longer in the EU will bring back paramilitary activity – that is to confuse cause and effect.
“And I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement. And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Ireland’s economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there.
“And of course there are very good political reasons. Sinn Fein, who are members of this group and trusted colleagues, of course want to see the unification of Ireland and that is a political objective of Sinn Fein. But it doesn’t mean that a normal border will bring back paramilitary activity.
“And so, these are deeply unfashionable remarks to make, but actually I do think that we do need to understand that there are economic reasons, there are political reasons, and they do not always concur with what we are putting forward – from all sides – as this shibboleth of the Good Friday Agreement. I think we need to actually start drilling down.”