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'No pot of gold at end of Brexit rainbow', says Tory minister Ben Wallace

Published 20/04/2016

NIO minister Ben Wallace said Northern Ireland benefits
NIO minister Ben Wallace said Northern Ireland benefits "extremely well" from money it receives from the EU

A pro-EU minister has insisted there is "no pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow" - as his Leave-supporting boss appealed for a measured referendum debate.

Tory frontbencher Ben Wallace, a Northern Ireland minister, stressed the benefits of EU membership to the country while criticising the vision of the Leave campaign.

His remarks followed Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, who is campaigning with Vote Leave, calling for both Remain and Leave camps to address the facts of the debate "in a measured way" to help voters make their decision on June 23.

Speaking during Northern Ireland questions, t he SDLP's Mark Durkan (Foyle) said EU membership has made a big difference to the border economy.

He questioned if Mr Wallace had heard others say this will be "dwarfed by the bounty" the UK will receive in the event of Brexit.

Mr Durkan asked: "Do you believe there is a crock of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow?"

Mr Wallace replied: "Northern Ireland benefits extremely well from money it receives from the European Union.

"There is no pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow and therefore I suggest we get on and focus on what does right for Northern Ireland, which is remaining in the European Union."

Shadow Northern Ireland minister Stephen Pound mocked the divide on the Government frontbench, telling the Commons that Labour is "united".

Mr Wallace, asked for clarity over what would happen to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event of Brexit, said: "The one thing myself and (Ms Villiers) are completely united on is there will be no return to barbed wire and watchtowers should we leave or remain in the United Kingdom."

He said Northern Ireland would be outside the customs union, adding this would "inevitably affect the free flow of trade" between the two countries.

Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley (North Antrim) earlier criticised the scare stories surrounding Britain's potential exit from the the EU.

He asked Ms Villiers: "Like me, are you appalled by the scare stories and scare tactics being employed by the Remain campaign that are turning the people away from investment because they're scared of the consequences, and all this hate activity that's going on?

"And like me will you ensure that every effort will be made, irrespective of the outcome on June 23, that monies released to the United Kingdom will be encouraged to attract inward investment to Northern Ireland?"

Ms Villiers replied: "I think it's important for all sides to address the facts of this debate in a measured way so on June 23 the people of this country can make a judgment based on the objective facts of the situation."

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