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George Osborne warns of strict border controls and hard times in post-Brexit Northern Ireland

Chancellor George Osborne (left) walks with South Down MP Margaret Ritchie,(second left) during a visit to Warrenpoint Harbour in Co Down. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

IRELAND would face immigration checkpoints, border controls and an end to free movement if the UK withdraws from the European Union, George Osborne has warned.

The chancellor said the hardening of the Irish border post-Brexit would be accompanied by an economic crash whose impact on Northern Ireland would be much more severe than in Britain.

Mr Osborne was speaking on Monday during a visit to Warrenpoint Port in Co Down, less than a mile as the crow flies from the Republic.

"Let's be clear, if we quit the EU then this is going to be the border with the European Union," he said, pointing to Carlingford Lough, the narrow waterway which separates north and south.

"And all the things that those that want to quit the EU claim would happen – ie new immigration checkpoints, border controls and an end to free movement – that has a real consequence and there would have to be a real hardening of the border imposed either by the British government or indeed by the Irish government."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers is among a number of Vote Leave campaigners who have insisted that the border will remain open in the event of a so-called Brexit.

But according to Mr Osborne, the situation would be very different along the EU's new north-western frontier.

"This would become the border with the European Union if we vote to quit, and that would mean fewer jobs in Northern Ireland, that would mean family incomes hit, it would mean the value of people's homes and pensions would fall, and that's not a price worth paying," he said.

"Why take this leap in the dark with all the costs and risks associated with it? There is a strong, brighter future in a reformed EU if we vote to Remain."

Mr Osborne also stressed the need to maintain strong links with the Republic for security and political purposes.

"When it comes to Northern Ireland and its future, I would say we have made massive progress over the last 20 years, massive progress in my lifetime, and one of the things you have seen is essentially the disappearance of the border as a physical place, a check, and talking with the folk here, they were saying people who work here live on both sides of the border, people travel easily," he said.

"So you just don't know what would happen as the border starts to harden and this becomes the external border with the European Union, and here we would be on the wrong side of it."

The chancellor said the imposition of trade tariffs on export goods into the EU would hurt businesses in the north who trade with the Republic.

He also highlighted new analysis of Treasury figures which suggests the north's jobless total would soar by 14,000 in Northern Ireland over two years if the UK left the European Union, with 2,000 added to the youth unemployment figure.

Mr Osborne also warned that the regional economy could shrink by £1.3 billion as a result of the UK's exit from the single European market, with house prices falling by £18,000 over the same period.

He said Brexit would spell particular bad news for Northern Ireland's farmers, who currently receive around £330m a year through the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

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