PM warns of checks between NI and GB in wake of a Brexit
British citizens travelling from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK might have go through checkpoints in the event of a Brexit, the Prime Minister warned yesterday.
David Cameron said it would be an alternative to introducing hard borders between the Republic and Northern Ireland if the UK left the EU.
The Government has previously warned that the Common Travel Area - a current free movement agreement between the two nations - would be under threat.
Brexit supporters such as Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers have described that as scaremongering.
But speaking during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Mr Cameron said: "If we vote to stay in, we know what the situation is. We know that the Common Travel Area works, we know it can continue and everyone can have confidence in that.
"If we were to leave and, as the Leave campaigners want make a big issue about our borders, then you've got a land border between Britain outside the European Union and the Republic of Ireland inside the European Union.
"Therefore, you can only either have new border controls between the Republic and Northern Ireland or, which I would regret hugely, you'd have to have some sort of checks on people as they left Belfast or other parts of Northern Ireland to come to the rest of the United Kingdom.
"Now, we can avoid these risks. There are so many risks here - risks to our children's jobs, risks to our economic future, risks to our borders, risks to the unity of the United Kingdom - I say avoid the risks and vote remain next Thursday."
His warning came after SDLP MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell insisted a return to customs and passport control checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be a "critical economic issue for Northern Ireland's voters in eight days' times".
Dr McDonnell expressed fears that up to 30,000 commuters who cross the Irish border daily for work could end up in massive queues to present their passports to gain access to one part of Ireland or the other.
The SDLP, which is urging people to stay within the EU, believes most voters across the UK are unlikely to consider the implications of the Irish border.
"Despite the hand-waving and denials of the Leave campaign, the Prime Minister has today made it crystal clear that leaving the EU would inevitably lead to the hardening of the border on the island of Ireland, either through new controls between the North and South or through new controls between Northern Ireland and Britain," said Mr McDonnell.
"We simply cannot afford to return to the days of customs checks, passport posts and a hard border in Ireland, not least because of the 30,000 people that commute across the border every day for work."
But the claim was dismissed by the pro-Brexit DUP. East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "The Common Travel Area was agreed in 1923 and operated before the EU without a problem, and still operates today without an issue and currently includes Jersey and Guernsey, which are both non-EU members.
"Dan Mullhall, the Irish Ambassador to the UK, has stated his belief that the Common Travel Area would continue post-Brexit."