Northern Ireland

EU referendum: Chancellor says NI border checks 'inevitable' if UK leaves EU

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Media captionThe Chancellor, George Osborne, was in Northern Ireland to campaign for a 'remain' vote

The Chancellor has said more stringent checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic are inevitable, should the UK leave the EU.

George Osborne was in Northern Ireland campaigning for a 'Remain' vote in the EU referendum.

But 'Leave' campaigner Sammy Wilson said that did not stand up to scrutiny.

"There's a land border between Norway and Sweden and you don't have those kind of checks and those border posts," Mr Wilson told Good Morning Ulster.

"There's a land border between France and Switzerland and you don't have sealing of the border, so why would Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland be any different?"

'Nonsensical'

However, speaking on the same programme, the Chancellor said that if the UK votes to leave: "Suddenly the Republic is part of the EU, it's no longer the border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, it's the border between the UK and the European Union," he said.

"The European Union charges a tax, a tariff on things coming into it, which we don't pay at the minute because we're in the EU.

"So who's going to check what those goods are?"

He said there would be routine checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic, if it became a frontier between the UK and the EU.

"Here in this part of the UK particularly, it (the EU) helps with our land border.

"You can't say 'we want to have control of our borders', as they keep claiming, but then say, 'but it's not going to have any effect on the borders'. It's a nonsensical claim by Leave campaigners."

The Secretary Of State Theresa Villiers previously played down the possibility of radical changes, noting that the current free travel arrangements within the island of Ireland pre-date the UK's membership of the EU.

She said in the event of a British exit (Brexit) - the UK would keep an open border with Ireland. She described claims to the contrary as "scare tactics".

But speaking ahead of his visit to Belfast on Monday, Mr Osborne said it would be "inevitable that there would be changes to border arrangements".

"Leave campaigners who suggest this is not the case are simply not being straight with people," he added.

Norway, Sweden, France and Switzerland are part of the Schengen Agreement, that abolished many of the EU's internal borders, enabling passport-free movement across most of the bloc from 1995.

However, the UK and Republic of Ireland have opted out. The UK wants to maintain its own borders, and Dublin prefers to preserve its free movement arrangement with the UK - called the Common Travel Area - rather than join Schengen.

'Economic shock'

The Chancellor also warned that Northern Ireland is particularly vulnerable to the financial consequences of a British exit from the EU.

He claimed that "every credible independent voice agrees there would be a profound economic shock that would hurt people's jobs, livelihoods and living standards.

He warned that farmers would face lower subsidy payments, arguing that leaving the EU would make the UK poorer and therefore he could not see "how you could keep the same level of support for agriculture".

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