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EU referendum: What do the rival camps say about Northern Ireland?

The claims made by the Leave and Remain camps

Published 09/06/2016

Boris Johnson lined up with five female politicians in a live TV debate on the referendum
Boris Johnson lined up with five female politicians in a live TV debate on the referendum
Former prime ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair share a platform for the Remain campaign event at the University of Ulster in Londonderry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 9, 2016. See PA story POLITICS EU. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Britain's Labour former prime minister Tony Blair gestures as he speaks at the University of Ulster in Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland on June 9, 2016 during a visit to campaign for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum. British former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair travelled to Derry City in Northern Ireland to make speeches in favour of a 'remain' vote in the June 23 EU referendum. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Brian LawlessBRIAN LAWLESS/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Conservative former prime minister John Major (L) speaks alongside Labour former prime minister Tony Blair (R) as the two speak at the University of Ulster in Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland on June 9, 2016 during a visit to campaign for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum. British former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair travelled to Derry City in Northern Ireland to make speeches in favour of a 'remain' vote in the June 23 EU referendum. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JEFF J MITCHELLJEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/Getty Images
Labour former prime minister Tony Blair speaks at the University of Ulster in Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland on June 9, 2016 during a visit to campaign for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum. British former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair travelled to Derry City in Northern Ireland to make speeches in favour of a 'remain' vote in the June 23 EU referendum. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / BRIAN LAWLESSBRIAN LAWLESS/AFP/Getty Images
File photo dated 06/05/98 of former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair, who have warned of the risks Brexit poses to the unity of the UK as they campaign in Northern Ireland. PA

Former prime ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair have warned about the damage Brexit could cause to Northern Ireland.

Here are some of the claims made by the rival camps:

Remain camp says:

  • The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would become the frontier between the EU and a non-EU country if the UK votes to leave. This could mean the return of border control points and customs checks.
     
  • It could be easier for wanted suspected criminals to dodge justice. Britain Stronger In Europe said of the 769 suspects surrendered by other EU countries to the UK under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) between 2010 and 2015, some 129 - 16% - were handed over by Ireland, second only to Spain. Without access to the EAW, the UK and Ireland would have to negotiate alternative extradition arrangements.
     
  • The peace process ending the Troubles took place within the context of both the UK and Ireland being EU members. The UK-Irish agreement that accompanied the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referred to the two states' wish "to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union".
     
  • The EU has a dedicated funding programme to support the peace process, with funds going to both sides of the border. In 2014-2020, the programme is due to receive around £185 million.
     
  • Sir John said: "I believe it would be an historic mistake to do anything that has any risk of destabilising the complicated and multi-layered constitutional settlement that underpins stability in Northern Ireland."

Leave camp says:

  • The passport-free Common Travel Area has existed since 1923. It is enshrined in UK law and will continue after Brexit. Ireland's ambassador to the UK Daniel Mulhall has insisted the arrangements will "still apply fully".
     
  • Ireland has an opt-out from the Schengen passport-free zone, so migrants will have to pass through either UK or Irish border controls before entering the UK.
     
  • The incentive for migration to the UK via Ireland by EU citizens will substantially diminish after a Leave victory because non-Irish EU migrants will no longer have an automatic right to work.
     
  • The Good Friday Agreement was a bilateral treaty between the governments of Ireland and the UK and did not depend on EU membership and it is "scaremongering" to suggest the peace process could be put at risk.
     
  • Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said "whatever the result of the referendum, Northern Ireland is not going back to the Troubles of its past and to suggest otherwise would be highly irresponsible".

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