Express & Star

Wolverhampton MP visits Northern Ireland with Brexit Committee

Black Country MP Pat McFadden has insisted Northern Ireland "must not" go back to roadblocks and watchtowers after visiting the region with the House of Commons Brexit Committee.

Hillary Benn (right), Chair of The House of Commons' Brexit Committee, and Pat McFadden MP at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in Midd

The Irish border has become a central issue in the on-going Brexit negotiations. Earlier this week the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up Theresa May's minority Government, rejected a mooted agreement between the UK and EU because of its concerns.

Mr McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East, said the committee had travelled to Northern Ireland on Thursday to listen to people's views.

He said: "We visited the border and it is really a case of what is not there, it is just a line in the road.

"That represents huge progress because we also saw what remains of old customs posts and were shown pictures of old roadblocks.

"I don't think anyone wants to return to that kind of border. Because of all the progress we must not go back. That is the phrase we have heard over and over again."

A Brexit deal could not be reached after the DUP objected to the wording of text on the future operation of the border.

It is understood the proposed deal put forward "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, therefore removing the need for stricter border controls between the two countries.

But the DUP is unhappy about any agreement which treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK.

Mr McFadden, added: "The reason this is so difficult is the red lines that the Government has announced are competing with one another.

"These are the commitment to have no hard border, to not be in the custom union or the single market.

"These red lines were announced without being thought through properly."

Thursday was the first time the Brexit Committee had visited Northern Ireland to gather evidence.

Its chair, Hilary Benn MP, echoed the views of Mr McFadden on retaining an open border.

He said: "We need to find a solution.You just stand here, you see the traffic, the goods moving backwards and forth, you talk to the people who have lived here, who have lived through the Troubles, this is progress, this busy road is progress.

"I really hope the peace process is not in jeopardy."