Osborne: Brexit will harden Irish border

George Osborne with EU Remain campaigners at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, June 5, 2016
George Osborne with EU Remain campaigners at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, June 5, 2016

Brexit would trigger a “profound economic shock” in Northern Ireland and result in an inevitable hardening of the Irish border, the Chancellor will warn during a visit to Ulster.

George Osborne arrived in the Province yesterday, and today he will use an address to point to a new analysis of Treasury figures and suggest unemployment would rise by 14,000 in Northern Ireland over two years if the UK left the European Union.

The impact of the shock from leaving the EU and the free trade single market could equate to a £1.3 billion reduction in the size of the Northern Ireland economy by 2018, with house prices falling by £18,000 over the same period, Mr Osborne will insist.

Mr Osborne will use the visit to warn of the impact on cross-border trade, adding that border and custom checks will have to be implemented in the event of Brexit.

He will also question if the free movement of people across Ireland under the Common Travel Area arrangement between the UK and Republic can be maintained.

He will claim Northern Ireland is “particularly vulnerable” to the economic shock he says would follow an EU exit.

The Chancellor will draw particular attention to the land border with the Republic of Ireland; the region’s reliance on agriculture; and the peace process funding it continues to receive from the EU.

He will claim the negative impact will also “spill over” and affect the Republic’s economy.

By contrast, Mr Osborne will argue that Northern Ireland has a bright future inside a reformed EU, with opportunities to build on the economic recovery and rising levels of employment.

He is using the two-day visit to urge people to check they are registered to vote ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.

“At the moment, Northern Ireland is among the best regions of the UK when it comes to creating jobs,” the Chancellor will say.

“It’s a great success story that I am confident we can build on if the UK remains in a reformed EU.

“But if the UK votes to leave, every credible independent voice agrees there would be a profound economic shock that would hurt people’s jobs, livelihoods and living standards.

“It is also inevitable that there would be changes to border arrangements.

“Leave campaigners who suggest this is not the case are simply not being straight with people.

“On any level, that is simply not a price worth paying.

“Northern Ireland is the most pro-EU part of the UK, so I urge people to make sure they are registered to vote ahead of tomorrow’s deadline and turn out in force on June 23 and back the Remain campaign.

“There is so much at stake.”