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'Pragmatism and goodwill' can avoid 'unacceptable' Cold War-style borders after Brexit, Picardo says

Cold War-style Checkpoint Charlie borders after Brexit will not be acceptable, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told a House of Commons select committee today.

Crossings must not be used as "choke points" for political reasons, Mr Picardo added, as he explained the working of Gibraltar’s border with Spain to MPs on the Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

He was giving evidence to the committee as part of its investigation at Westminster into the Irish border and said he would visit Northern Ireland soon, where he is scheduled to meet DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill as Brexit talks in Brussels intensify.

“Nobody is going to accept something which looks like, feels like, smells like Checkpoint Charlie,” Mr Picardo said.

“Don't see a border as a way of creating conflict, that will only cause real hardship.”

Mr Picardo said that with “goodwill and pragmatism”, the border could remain fluid even after Brexit.

“We must not allow anyone to use a border crossing as a political choke point,” he said.

Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin was the most famous crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War and came to symbolise divisions between the West and the Soviet Union.

Mr Picardo explained that while there were some parallels between Gibraltar’s border with Spain and Northern Ireland’s border with Ireland, there were many differences too, not least size.

While Gibraltar’s border is a single checkpoint, Northern Ireland’s stretches over hundreds of kilometres. Ireland and Northern Ireland also enjoy a common travel area, while Gibraltar is outside the EU Customs union.

Mr Picardo explained how Gibraltar ensures frontier fluidity, particularly at peak times, by employing a mix of manned documentary checks and high-tech capability including cameras.

Mr Picardo said it would be impossible to put Heathrow-style machine readers in place to force everybody to scan their passports at peak times.

Instead technology costing £200,000 checks traffic against Interpol lists of suspected criminals while "trusted trader" status for large companies allows goods to pass through easily.


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