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Brexit Party MEP predicts Northern Ireland gains after EU exit during border visit

Ben Habib (centre) with Kate Hoey and Jim Allister at the border yesterday
Ben Habib (centre) with Kate Hoey and Jim Allister at the border yesterday
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

A Brexit Party MEP has predicted that Northern Ireland will make significant economic gains at the expense of the Republic when the UK leaves the EU.

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Ben Habib was speaking during a visit to the border yesterday, where he met farmers, business people, and a victims group.

Mr Habib said: "I firmly believe that the Northern Ireland economy will perform a lot better post-Brexit than it is currently doing.

"It will be able to supply a lot of goods to Britain that are currently supplied by the Irish Republic.

"It will benefit from a much better roll of the dice after Brexit.

"The Republic's trade with Britain will be hurt because of the new tariffs on its goods entering the British market, but those tariffs won't apply to Northern Ireland goods, which will give them a competitive edge."

Mr Habib said he had never been to Northern Ireland before, but felt it was important to visit the border area because of the critical role it played in the Brexit debate.

"I don't know if Boris Johnson has visited the border in his previous trips to Northern Ireland, but if he hasn't then he should do so," the MEP said.

"I felt it important to come to Northern Ireland today, to see what it's like first-hand on the ground and especially to talk to people and establish their views and concerns," he said.

Mr Habib caused a storm on Twitter yesterday when he posted a video of himself on the border, saying there could never be a hard border and "the whole thing is a red herring".

People tweeted photographs of checkpoints and soldiers at the border during the Troubles.

Mr Habib said: "The fact remains that there never was a hard border.

"The British Government tried to establish one, but the fact that the IRA was able to 'shoot and scoot' shows that the Government's efforts failed and the border remained porous.

"Today, both London and Dublin have stated that they won't impose a hard border. I've spoken to about a dozen farmers and they tell me that there are already checks done on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic and from Northern Ireland to Britain.

"This takes place without any border infrastructure and there is no need for that to change.

"Under WTO rules, tariffs will be imposed, but they can be collected via mechanisms other than border infrastructure."

Mr Habib said it was "too early to tell" if Boris Johnson was doing a good job in the eyes of the Brexit Party.

"I've certainly been delighted with his rhetoric so far and that he has refused to meet Brussels until it agrees to delete the backstop. I hope he secures many changes to the Withdrawal Agreement," the MEP said.

Mr Habib met Labour MP Kate Hoey, DUP leader Arlene Foster, TUV leader Jim Allister and the victims group SEFF (South East Fermanagh Foundation) during his trip.

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