During his recent visit to glass manufacturer Encirc, based in the Border village of Derrylin, Senior Cabinet Minister David Lidington spoke of how, in the context of Brexit, the Border is a “key issue” which he hopes the future Prime Minister will give “very high priority to”.

In an exclusive interview with The Impartial Reporter, Britain’s de facto Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Lidington commented that whether it is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt who becomes the new Prime Minister, they need to show in “both words and actions” that they understand the “vital importance of first of all sticking by all aspects of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement.”

He continued: “Secondly, show an understanding that in the Brexit context, the Border is a key issue. It matters hugely for the livelihoods of farmers, manufacturers, workers on both sides of the Border but it’s also a Border where political symbolism is still of importance.”

“It’s important for people living in Northern Ireland, who think of themselves as Irish or identify as Irish, that the Border has no real impact on how they live their lives on an everyday basis, I mean that’s the situation we need to see continue. I hope that whether it’s Boris or Jeremy, they will accept those things and give a very high priority to Northern Ireland and to the Border in their early months,” he added.

When asked by this newspaper how likely it is that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union by October 31, Mr. Lidington said: “I think it’s not impossible because if there is political will, these things can be accelerated and I think there will be a window when the new Prime Minister is elected when other European leaders will want to hear from the new Prime Minister and to understand what he might be proposing by way of changes to the deal we have on the table and whether if they agreed such changes they would be confident of a majority in the House of Commons for taking those through.”

He continued: “I think it will be a narrow window and it is a very demanding challenge to get something through by the October 31 because we are entering the summer holiday period. There is a lot of key officials and politicians in Europe will be going away but what I agree with both candidates is that they should be pressing on with this as soon as possible, what they should not do is kick the can down the road and say we are just going to wait until the autumn before we do anything, I think they should get on with it but I think we need to be realistic as well as ambitious about the pace.”

When asked out of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hunt who he thinks will make a better Prime Minister for this Border region, Mr. Lidington noted how he was on the record as supporting Jeremy Hunt. He added: “He, of the two men, is the one who, I think, has the better proven track record, in his case in a succession of senior ministerial jobs. I think he has the calmness mixed with the ability to take tough decisions that you need in a Prime Minister, that’s why I’m supporting him.”

Mr. Lidington visited a number of local businesses during his visit to Fermanagh on Friday, July 5. Following a tour of the glass factory, Encirc played host to a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and SSE Ireland round-table discussion. During his visit to Elite Electronic Systems in Enniskillen, Mr. Lidington was shown how the company satisfies the demand for contract electronic manufacture for the United Kingdom through many sectors such as medical, wearable technology, power and communications.

Mr. Lidington concluded his tour of Fermanagh by visiting the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.