Northern Ireland

Brexit: Sale of border PSNI station halted

Newry police station
Image caption Newry, Mourne and Down Council wanted to buy the former Warrenpoint station

The sale of a former police station near the Irish border has been halted because of uncertainty about Brexit.

Brexit has returned the Irish border to the centre of Anglo-Irish politics and it is still unclear what it will look like when the UK leaves the EU.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council wanted to buy the former station in Warrenpoint, which went on the market in 2016.

The plan was to convert it into a community centre.

No one from the PSNI was available for interview with the BBC, but a statement given to the Newry Reporter newspaper said: "Due to the uncertainty surrounding the implications of Brexit, PSNI has taken this opportunity to review the planned disposal of this station pending clarity around future arrangements."

'Post-Brexit facility'

Journalist Ryan Sands said there had been speculation that the facility could be earmarked for a post-Brexit customs or security role, given its proximity to the border and to Warrenpoint Port.

"As we all know, Warrenpoint is a border and harbour town so there has been some speculation as to the future use of the site if it isn't going to be used as a community centre," he said.

"I've heard whispers that it could be used as some sort of post-Brexit border facility."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "Our policy is clear - we are committed to ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and to ensuring the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the whole of the UK's internal market.

"We have set out our preferred customs models to enable trade to remain as frictionless as possible."

Image caption Warrenpoint is a small town in County Down

The Chief Constable of the PSNI told the BBC's Newsnight programme that he did not want anything that looks like physical infrastructure at the border.

He said he feared it could be targeted by violent dissident republican groups - groups whose threat he defines as "severe".

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley echoed his concerns at a meeting of the European Scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

She said there would be no new physical infrastructure at the border, including additional cameras.

The local council has not been officially informed that the sale will not go ahead - frustrating councillors who worked on the community centre plan.

'Left high and dry'

Sinn Féin councillor Michael Ruane said that this left the council and the Warrenpoint community in limbo.

"People are trying to surmise what the PSNI mean by holding it for Brexit-related concerns," he said.

"We're not sure but there is anger in the town.

"This is a much-needed facility, probably the number one project in the town - and here we are at the last minute, we've been left high and dry."

The council will discuss the matter at a meeting next week.

In the interim it has said it will consider alternative sites for the community centre, with Clonallon Park believed to be the most likely choice.

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