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George Osborne warns of 'hard border' in Ireland as union NIPSA backs Brexit

By John Mulgrew

Chancellor George Osborne has warned of a return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the event of a Brexit, while Northern Ireland's biggest trade union has confirmed it is backing a leave vote.

And Mr Osborne also warned that farmers would be among the worst hit if the UK left the EU, and it's unlikely Westminster would be able to match the billions Northern Ireland receives in subsidies from Europe.

"Close to 90% of farming incomes here come from EU support payments," he said.

"What would happen if we left? The whole country would have less money.

"A Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to make choices. The Budget shrinking, and where are the cuts going to be felt.

"I can't see why farming would be excluded from those cuts."

More: Pound falls to three-week low against dollar as opinion polls favour Brexit

Speaking to media during a sunny tour of the busy Warrenpoint Harbour in Co Down, he also reinforced his warnings of a return to a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the event of a Brexit.

"I'm here at Warrenpoint and it's a very practical demonstration of the fact that Northern Ireland has the only land border with an EU country.

"If we were to quit the EU then jobs would be lost...I think Northern Ireland would be particularly hard hit. You would have a hardening of the border.

"You only have to listen to the businesses at the port here telling us that jobs would be lost and their futures would be uncertain.

"We've come a long from the mess the country was in seven or eight years ago. We don't want to go back to square one."

"If we quit the EU, this is going to be the border with the EU.

"There would have to be a hardening of the border imposed by the British Government or indeed by the Irish Government and that would have an impact on business."

More: Boost for Leave campaign as Nipsa union backs pull-out from 'rich man's club' EU  

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's biggest trade union NIPSA has confirmed it is backing a leave vote.

Patrick Mulholland from the union told the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show: "We had a full and healthy discussion and came to the decision we would back a 'left exit' from Europe.

"We in no way stand on the same ground with the leave campaign which frankly has been jingoistic, racist and full of misinformation and fear - it is no different from the remain campaign.

"Both are led by Tory ministers who want the same thing. Either a Tory government in or out of Europe.

"We are talking about something entirely different."

He continued: "We want to do is develop a real discussion among ordinary people on the facts of the case and really discuss the economic alternative is for this country.

"There are a number of factors for our decision.

"The EU is a union of austerity and for big business and bosses and that doesn't work for us. It has a proven track record for imposing austerity.

"Not for one second are we suggesting that there is Tory paradise in the European Union and that things on the outside will be much better under a Tory government on the outside.

"We want out of the EU and use the opportunity to change the economy in Britain that we all live under."

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