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Peter Mandelson talking nonsense over Brexit risk to peace process, says Sammy Wilson

By Noel McAdam

Claims that a UK exit from the EU could lead to renewed sectarianism across Northern Ireland have been branded "nonsense" by the DUP.

Former Secretary of State Lord Mandelson yesterday warned that a Brexit could put peace and jobs at risk.

The former Labour minister, who previously served as a European Commissioner, also sounded alarm bells over bringing back a "formalised border" with the Republic.

But the DUP's Sammy Wilson warned that Lord Mandelson had employed similar scare tactics in the debate over the euro currency.

In a key speech to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in the City of London, Lord Mandelson said: "Anything, in my view, that strengthened a sense of separation between Northern and Southern Ireland - physically, economically, psychologically - has the potential to upset the progress that has been made and serve as a potential source of renewed sectarianism."

Lord Mandelson, who served as Northern Ireland Secretary between 1999 and 2001, also described the EU as "a fundamentally stabilising" influence on Irish politics.

"It is unclear what the border arrangements would be in the unprecedented situation of the UK leaving Europe, and everyone would want to work to avoid border posts and elaborate checks," the peer said.

"But the reimposition of a formalised border would be a radical departure from the established strategy of administrations in Dublin, Belfast and London."

In an interview with the BBC later, he added: "There are 50,000 Northern Irish jobs linked to exports to the European Union.

"If we start to insert new trade as a result of Britain leaving the European Union, which will limit demand for those exports, these jobs would then be put at risk." But Mr Wilson argued that "any prediction about anything" by Lord Mandelson should be treated with the strongest degree of scepticism.

"When he was a member of the Labour Government he was known as the 'Prince of Darkness' and the master of spin," the East Antrim MP said.

"His comments on the consequences of leaving the EU are not just spin, they would be a credit to the most energetic acrobat.

"His claim that 50,000 jobs would be at risk is just plain nonsense.

"For any such prediction to be true, every single good sold to the EU countries, including the UK, would have to stop being traded.

"As for his claim that we would have a hard border with border controls, he knows full well that the Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland is not dependent on EU membership.

"Indeed, it is as important to the Republic as it is to us, and the open border at present does not cause problems of large-scale illegal immigration.

"Mandelson played the same game when he wanted the UK to join the euro. He was wrong then, and he is wrong now."

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