Unite Brexit Check Report (14 Feb 18) “The campaign to stop hard borders is heating up at Ireland`s Brexit Unite Conference” (Added 17 Feb 18). Alan Beattie discussed the consequences of the idea “More illusions at the Irish border” (Financial Times 27 Nov 17). “We have to keep in mind the issue of the Irish border.” (Feb 5, 17) Graham Gudgin (Prospect Magazine) In a radio interview on 7 September (Nolan Show, BBC Radio Ulster, at 39:15), Jim Allister told MLA: “The Belfast agreement had nothing to say about the fact that you could not have border barriers in Northern Ireland, Ireland, nothing.” During the withdrawal negotiations, the Irish border issue was one of three areas that required a specific stream of negotiations to reach the necessary withdrawal agreement before future relations between the UK and the EU could be agreed.    The Irish and British governments as well as EU officials have stated that they do not want a hard border in Ireland, given the historical and social “sensitivities” that cross the island.  The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement does not exclude Northern Ireland and Ireland from the establishment of cross-border checkpoints and other security measures. However, one of the explicit objectives of the UK withdrawal agreement is to minimise physical border controls. Trade unionists feared that the Irish government`s position was a disguised attempt to gain more power over the province to promote a united Ireland a position that the Irish government rejected.  The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is opposed to a hard Irish border and wants to preserve the common travel area.  The DUP was the only major NI party to oppose the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.  The Irish government has reduced the public reference to border controls in order to avoid confrontation with opposition parties in D`il and to allay nationalist and unionist fears in Northern Ireland. Repeated statements by senior politicians in the government challenge the hard border plans.  Opposition parties have expressed concern that the government is not talking openly about the risk and planning of a hard border.  A private recall of Transport Minister Shane Ross, Demenaiste Simon Coveney, following a press conference, was captured on live microphones.
With regard to border controls, Coveney said: “We cannot get to where they will be at this stage. Maybe they`re in the sea. You could… but as soon as you start talking about controls somewhere near the border, people will start dealing with them, and all of a sudden we will be the government that has reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland.  Katy Hayward, Reader sociology at Queen`s University Belfast, says that a hard border in itself does not call into question the agreement, but it is “fair to say” that the acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement was “closer integration.”