Wednesday 17 January 2018

Prospect of border controls between Northern Ireland and Republic as a result of Brexit is 'repulsive and upsetting' - Labour politician

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers
Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers
Photo: Bloomberg

Colm Kelpie in Liverpool

The prospect of a return to border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic as a result of a Brexit is both "repulsive and upsetting", a British Labour politician has said.

Claims by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers that the common travel area between the UK and Ireland would be unaffected if UK voters opt to pull out of the European Union are wrong, Conor McGinn, MP for the St Helen's North constituency in Merseyside said.

And Mr McGinn, who is originally from south Armagh, claimed campaigners for the 'leave' side were being disingenuous in their statements about Northern Ireland.

"As someone who grew up six miles from the border during the late 1980s, 1990s, I can categorically say that the idea of going back to any sort of restriction, or even the word checkpoint, in the border between north and south, is both repulsive and upsetting," he said.

Mr McGinn was speaking on a panel discussion at the University of Liverpool this afternoon, organised by its Institute of Irish Studies, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Grainne Mellon, co chair of the Irish4Europe campaign.

Mr McGinn said it was not overstating, or scaremongering, to say the progress that has been made on both sides of the border would be put at risk by a Brexit. P

Asked by a member of the audience about claims from the leave side that a border would not be reinstated, Mr McGinn said the leave campaigners were wrong.

And he said that a British withdrawal could ultimately mean a hard border between the island of Ireland and Britain, meaning someone travelling from Belfast to Liverpool would need to go through passport control

Mr Flanagan said that if a Brexit were to occur, at best, there would be huge uncertainty around the border issue, but at worst, there wold be border controls that would give "rise to serious adverse consequences in terms of trade and economic engagement".

The minister is on a two day UK visit to engage with members of the Irish community in the UK ahead of the crucial referendum on June 23. As well as taking part in the Institute of Irish Studies discussion at the University of Liverpool, he was due to attend a site visit with ABP foods and visit the Irish Heritage Centre in Manchester. Tomorrow he will speak at a British Irish Chamber of Commerce event in the city.

Mr Flanagan said it was important for those with a vote in the UK to register to vote, and he said for Ireland, the Government believes the UK is better in the EU than out.

"I know that for some voters the Irish perspective may be one of the factors they consider when informing themselves about the issues concerned," he said.

Mr Benn said the vote is the most important decision of a lifetime. And he said in the EU, the UK wields great influence.

Ms Mellon urged those who are not yet registered to vote to do so by June 7.

meanwhile, research carried out by and showed that 42pc of Northern Irish and 41pc of Irish employees fear the reintroduction of border controls.

And 77pc of Northern Irish employees believe a Brexit would push the UK economy into recession.

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