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MP blasts Hague’s claims Brexit will harm peace process in Northern Ireland

By Allan Preston

A DUP MP has laughed off warnings by William Hague that leaving the European Union could threaten the peace process.

Mr Hague, a former foreign secretary and ex-Conservative leader, argued that a Brexit would undermine the Good Friday Agreement and damage trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

His comments have been backed by the former Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, who said a Brexit had "deeply worrying implications for the safety and security of Northern Ireland".

But Gavin Robinson, MP for East Belfast, has dismissed the claims as "utter nonsense" saying EU membership did little to bring Northern Ireland peace during the worst years of the troubles.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hague said the right to be British in Northern Ireland, as well as in overseas territories like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, needed the protection of the EU.

"Maintaining that right involves you in an active choice, at the very least to vote in referendums to keep your links with the UK," he said.

"But in Northern Ireland it is to endure decades of terrorism, and in some overseas territories to resist the habitual threats and bullying of your far larger neighbours."

He continued: "The Good Friday Agreement was based on the assumption that the two countries (Ireland and the UK) would be in the EU together, and the various cross-border institutions it established are built on that."

Mr Hague went on to say that with a third of all exports from Northern Ireland going to the Republic, local businesses would "be hit harder than most."

He added: "By no means all of Northern Ireland's leaders would agree about this. But when the Irish Prime Minister, a proven friend of the UK, warns that a vote to leave next month could even endanger the stability of the peace process, his words must be taken seriously."

Sir Hugh said the possibility of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic "promises to upset the delicate accord that's been built since the Good Friday Agreement".

He added: "Losing (European Peace funding) in the future whilst building a new barrier along the 300-mile border will deal a heavy double blow to ongoing peace in Northern Ireland."

But Mr Robinson argued: "I'm thoroughly disappointed but not surprised that William Hague is adding to the aspects of 'Project Fear' relating to Northern Ireland. I don't think anyone can credibly suggest that Northern Ireland is destined to return to violence whether we remain in or outside the EU.

"Northern Ireland was a member of EU throughout the worst years of the troubles and didn't solve them. The only way you can solve difficulty is with local agreement and that's why we have such success today."

On the border issue, he added: "The idea that we need security checkpoints is a nonsense.

"Trade is now dealt with by digital infrastructure. Vehicles bringing goods across the border who are not EU members are billed digitally, so there's no need for any border checkpoints or extravagance."

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