Leave campaign’s promises that Border will not change are just plain ‘untrue’ and ‘taking people for a ride’, says Chancellor of Exchequer
By Bernard Purcell
A UK departure from the EU would cause a “profound economic shock” – of at least £1.3 billion – to Northern Ireland, Chancellor George Osborne warned on a visit to the region on Monday.
“If the UK votes to leave, every credible independent voice agrees there would be a profound economic shock that would hurt people’s jobs, livelihoods and living standards. It is also 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,” said Mr. Osborne.
He said it would inevitably lead to a hardening of the Border and controls on travel and import/exports between Britain and Ireland. Maintaining the Common Travel Area arrangement with Ireland would, he said, “undermine the UK’s ability to halt the free movement of people from other parts of the EU, as the Leave campaign proposes”.
He cited OECD figures which calculate that crossing a customs border, documentation and other delays increase transaction costs of trade by up to 24 per cent of goods’ value. If UK voters do decide, he said, in this month’s 23 June Referendum to leave the EU: “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.
“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?”
There would be the return of routine checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic, he warned.
“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,” said MR. Osborne.
His cabinet colleague, Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, has claimed that it would be business as usual, with an “open Border” and no need for checkpoints or frontier control. In recent TV appearances Ms. Villiers showed a startling lack of grasp of factual detail prompting some to suggest she is not especially interested in her brief.
Mr. Osborne said the loss of EU agriculture and peace funding, as well as all the new border and customs checks would reduce trade, cost jobs and affect living standards with farmers facing much lower subsidy payments should the UK leave the EU. As leaving would make the UK poorer he could not “see how you could keep the same level of support for agriculture”.
On his two day visit to both sides of the Border to campaign for the Remain vote Mr. Osborne said he had economic research which says leaving the EU would cost Northern Ireland many thousands of jobs – and hurt the Republic. A Leave vote on 23 would, in the first two years, put 14,000 people on to dole queues, and increase youth unemployment by 2,000, he said.
“The impact of the shock from leaving the EU and the free-trade single market, the largest in the world, could be equivalent to a £1.3 billion reduction to the size of the Northern Ireland economy by 2018,” said Mr. Osborne.
Northern Ireland house prices – which have been booming in recent years as part of the so-called peace dividend – would fall by at least £18,000 within two years of voting to leave, he said.Meanwhile former Northern Ireland Secretary and European Commissioner for Trade (Lord) Peter Mandelson told a business audience at a Manufacturing NI event at the Belfast Harbour Commissioner Office last week that leaving the EU would lock them out of the single market. He said the EU brings huge economic privileges and opportunities and there can be no half measures after Brexit.
“If we take ourselves out of the European Union we will be taking ourselves out of the single market as well.
“There’s no half measures. There is no, I’m afraid, possibility of being, as it were, half pregnant. You are either in the club, accepting the rules, making a financial contribution or you are out,” he said. Brexit would make it “harder to do business” and anyone telling people the UK would continue to enjoy the same privileges “are trying to take you for a ride”, he said.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness launched his party’s Put Ireland First at the Europa Hotel in Belfast – which during the heights of the IRA campaign marketed itself on its reputation the most bombed hotel in Europe, if not the world. “Ireland’s place north and south is leading change in Europe.
“Brexit would have huge implications for this island. The narrow interests of a section of the Tory party should not take the North out of Europe and set our political agenda.
“Brexit would be bad for Ireland, bad for business and trade, bad for our farmers and bad for human rights and workers’ rights,” said Mr. McGuinness.