`Bare Hands' Would Tear Down Irish Border Controls, Ex-PM Says

(Bloomberg) -- Locals on both side of the Irish border would bring down any post-Brexit border checks with their “bare hands, ” former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said, as he warned the government may face European pressure to cave in on the issue.

At a conference in Dublin, Ahern said while the U.K. probably won’t stay in the customs union, a way may be found to create something similar, while giving the U.K. some freedom to negotiate trade deals with other countries.

“We have to make regulatory alignment stand up and nail it down,” Ahern said at the Institute of International and European Affairs event Monday. “It seems to me that’s where the game is.”

Ahern, who stepped down in 2008, said the Irish government needs to make significant progress on the border issue by the end of June, rather than allow it drift until the closing days of withdrawal agreement talks. Otherwise, the government is likely to face pressure from nations such as Germany and France to agree to the withdrawal accord without having sealed an agreement on the border, he said.

Ahern said he had seen how events unfold at the “evil” hour.

“I’m not saying we will be abandoned, ” Ahern said. “But the art of politics is compromise.”

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