January 24, 2019 / 7:18 AM / in 3 months

Irish police say no plans to move officers to guard border

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The chief of the Irish police on Thursday dismissed as “entirely incorrect” a newspaper report that 600 Irish police officers could be deployed to guard the border with British-run Northern Ireland if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.

FILE PHOTO: A ' No Border, No Brexit' sticker is seen on a road sign in front of the Peace statue entitled 'Hands Across the Divide' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The future of the border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the United Kingdom’s only land frontier with the bloc after its departure, is proving a major hurdle in the ratification of the Brexit divorce deal in London.

Citing a meeting Police Commissioner Drew Harris held with senior staff on Wednesday, the Irish Independent newspaper said the emergency plans were being drafted as part of discussions on a “worst case scenario”.

It added that a notice was expected to be issued next week seeking volunteers for secondments of six to 12 months to staff the estimated 300 border crossings along the 500-km (300-mile) frontier, quoting sources.

“Reports of 600 Gardaí to be moved to the border are entirely incorrect. I have not discussed this matter, neither have I considered this proposal,” Harris said in a statement.

“The increasing deployment of Gardaí (police) to all policing regions including the northern region is commensurate with a growing organisation. We continue to prepare for Brexit in line with government policy.”

All sides say they want the seamless border to stay open.

But a “backstop” insurance policy designed to achieve this by keeping Britain bound by many EU rules until a better alternative is found was cited by many British members of parliament as a reason for their comprehensive rejection last week of the deal Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with the EU.

The Irish government also insists it will not countenance making contingency plans for the return of a hard border on the island, complete with customs checks, if Britain leaves the EU on March 29 without a deal.

Police on both sides of the border have warned that customs posts could be a target for the small number of militant groups still active in Northern Ireland after a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of violence in the province.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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