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Brexit could harm the peace process according to new report

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Brexit could have serious economic and political implications for Northern Ireland, the Republic, and Anglo-Irish relations, according to a new report.

The disruption of trade links, re-introduction of customs controls and loss of millions of pounds in aid funding would impact the economy and affect security, it was claimed.

British Influence, which published the report, said: “These are issues that have only been considered on the periphery of the referendum debate until very recently, and yet represent some of the most serious, considering the potential effects Brexit could have on the peace process and north-south cooperation.

“Those who argue for the UK to leave the EU have for the most part dismissed the Irish dimension of Brexit as either irrelevant or inconsequential — a worryingly passive stance.

“Considering the seriousness with which people on both sides of the Irish border are taking the possibility of the UK voting to leave, Brexit advocates need rapidly to reconsider that stance and begin providing answers for these legitimate concerns.”

According to the think tank, the economic consequences for Northern Ireland include an exposed economy left isolated from its second biggest market and more reliant on a poorer and preoccupied UK.

The potential loss of foreign direct investment, which has seen some 800 international companies set up in the region, was also highlighted, as were claims the business community could be disadvantaged.

The ending of the European Arrest Warrant may also make it more difficult to extradite terror suspects, while the loss of crucial EU funding for cross-border projects could disrupt the peace process, the report said.

British Influence additionally argued that a vote to leave the EU could have ramifications south of the border, where the economy is still recovering from the downturn. A Brexit could be the kind of shock that causes real difficulties,” the report said.

While both countries would continue to trade, the volume — presently 30% of Ireland’s imports, totalling some £27.86bn — was likely to be impacted, the group claimed. Agriculture prices may also be forced down, as the UK would no longer be subject to the Common Agricultural Policy.

And there could also be consequences for broader relations between the UK and Ireland, which have improved immeasurably in recent years, partly down to mutual membership of the EU.

The report said: “No doubt the British and Irish Governments would seek to maintain their current strong relationship, and it is to be hoped that they would succeed. But Britain and Ireland would have chosen profoundly different paths, and there would be no guarantees that the current relations would remain as they are.”

The report came after former  Irish president Mary McAleese warned a Leave vote would cause turmoil and radically alter relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Ms McAleese also claimed Ireland’s peace and prosperity would be in danger if Britain voted to leave the European Union next week.

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