BELFAST (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s police will ask the British government for hundreds more officers to help secure the province’s border with Ireland after Britain leaves the European Union, a senior police official said on Thursday.
Authorities on both sides of the now-open frontier fear a return to a hard border, complete with customs and other checks, could reignite the violence that afflicted Northern Ireland until a peace deal in the late 1990s.
Northern Ireland Police Federation (PSNI) chairman Mark Lindsay told a conference that many more officers would be needed “to deal with whatever emerges from negotiations about the border in a post-Brexit era”.
He said the PSNI would have to “provide protection for all government agencies working along the 300-mile border and, as such, additional resources will need to be redeployed”.
The PSNI declined to specify the number of new officers it hoped to recruit, where they would be based, or in what capacity but said a plan was being prepared for presentation to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.
Her proposals to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland have been rejected by EU negotiators, in part because London has coupled them with a bid to also secure better “backdoor” access for the rest of Britain to the EU’s single market.
Britons voted by a 52 to 48 percent margin in June 2016 to leave the EU, although a majority in Northern Ireland voted in favor of remaining in the bloc, seeing open borders as a guarantee of peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.
Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Editing by Mark Heinrich