North’s economy ‘would be more vulnerable’ outside EU

Internal borders within the UK would be anathema to unionists, a minister in the North has warned.

Ben Wallace said the North’s economy would be more vulnerable if the UK was to leave the EU.

A report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster examining the impact of Brexit on the North was published yesterday and raised the prospect of strengthened identity checks at the ports and airports in Britain.

Mr Wallace said: “I am not sure the unionist leaders in Northern Ireland would like the concept of internal borders in the UK. I would not like that, as a unionist, and I am not sure the DUP voters would.”

He said both sides agreed that the peace process was secure.

“We have relative peace in Northern Ireland because of the efforts of people in Northern Ireland and that is to be applauded,” he said.

He questioned the need for change: “People ask themselves what is it that is broken that needs fixing, that we take that risk?”

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is a leading Out campaigner. The committee is made of members supporting both sides of the argument.

Mr Wallace said: “It was a very professional and balanced report and it was clear that the report identified lots of benefits to being a member of the EU.

“It said if we were to leave we should try and replicate all those benefits.

“It likes the fact that we work closely with the Republic on security. It likes the fact that our industry gets support and it says we would have to try and replicate that if we were to leave.”

Meanwhile, Brexit backers have seized on figures showing a rise in immigration as proof the UK can only control its borders by quitting the EU. Leave campaigner Boris Johnson said Britain would be “kissing goodbye” to any hope of reducing migrant numbers unless it broke free of Brussels.

The warning followed news that 184,000 more people moved to the UK last year than left it — 270,000 entered while 86,000 went the other way.

The influx was 10,000 higher than in the previous year, and put immigration back to the heart of the referendum debate.

The UK government had failed in its target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands “because of the simple reality that inside the EU we cannot control immigration”, said Mr Johnson.

“Even worse, the prime minister’s deal has given away control of immigration and asylum forever,” he said.

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