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Brexit 'could mean tighter screening at airports' in Northern Ireland

By Michael McHugh

A Brexit could see the introduction of tighter security at borders between Great Britain and the island of Ireland, an influential group of MPs has said.

Screening by airlines flying between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK could be made more robust, according to Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

The tougher measures could also be extended to ferry ports such as Holyhead in Wales and Stranraer in Scotland.

The committee said introducing controls along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which 30,000 commuters cross for work every day, would cause much disruption.

"An alternative solution might be to strengthen the border between the island of Ireland and the British mainland," the group added in a report.

"There are fewer crossing points to enforce and it would be less disruptive as there are already checks in place.

"Some airlines flying between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK already subject passengers to identity checks, and these could be made more robust and extended to relevant ports such as Holyhead and Stranraer with relative ease."

But a Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister said borders within the UK would be anathema to unionists.

MP Ben Wallace added: "I'm not sure the unionist leaders in Northern Ireland would like the concept of internal borders in the UK. I would not like that as a unionist, and I'm not sure that the DUP voters would.

"We have relative peace in Northern Ireland because of the efforts of people there, and that is to be applauded.

"People should ask themselves, what is it that is broken that needs fixing?"

The committee's report said there were nearly 300 formal and many more informal crossing points between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The NIO has previously warned that a Brexit could endanger arrangements guaranteeing the free movement of people and goods between the South and the North.

Since the 1920s, the UK and Ireland have operated a common travel area that allows nationals of both countries to pass through and live in both of the nations without immigration controls.

The countries are also part of an EU customs union that guarantees free movement of goods.

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