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Home Office warns Newry firms of Brexit 'dangers'

The Home Office has written to Northern Irish businesses close to the border with the Irish Republic, warning that Brexit would damage long-standing travel agreements between the two, a shadow minister has said.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker has seen a copy of the letter from the Home Office to the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, which represents more than 250 businesses in the city, highlighting the dangers of leaving the EU.

The Common Travel Area, an agreement between the UK and the Republic of Ireland which pre-dates the European Union, allows citizens to travel freely over the borders.

The Remain campaign says that the agreement would be put at risk while the Leave campaign has insisted Brexit would not affect the rules.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Coaker said: "Both the Chancellor and the Northern Ireland Office have spelt out the consequences for the border of leaving the EU.

"I have a copy of a letter to the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade in which the Home Office also spells out the potential consequences for the Common Travel Area, given that an estimated 30,000 people cross the border every day.

"The letter states: If the UK left the EU these arrangements would be put at risk."

Tory frontbencher Ben Wallace, a Northern Ireland minister, said: "The Common Travel Area existed before the European Union, but you are absolutely right.

"It is totally unclear what arrangements would exist after a Brexit. That is why the best solution is to remain in the European Union, so that we can take advantage of both the single market and the free travel of people, skills and trade that we enjoyed before membership."

Earlier this week George Osborne visited Warrenpoint Port in Co Down, a stone's throw from the Irish Republic, to outline his fears for the region if there is a vote to exit the European Union.

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