Leading economist says border arrangements post-Brexit should be decided in a Northern Ireland referendum

Brendan Hughes

A LEADING Irish economist has said a referendum should be held in Northern Ireland to allow voters to decide on future border arrangements after Brexit.

It comes amid growing momentum for a second UK-wide referendum to decide on leaving the European Union.

Fears of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal have grown since European leaders last week rebuffed Theresa May's Brexit plan.

The British prime minister went on the offensive, delivering a speech from Downing Street calling for UK to be treated with "respect" – and warning that she will walk away rather than accept a "bad deal".

Both sides continue to disagree on how to prevent a hard Irish border.

Mrs May's stance has been backed by the DUP, which holds the balance of power in key votes at Westminster.

But tánaiste Simon Coveney has said the party cannot be allowed to veto 'backstop' border proposals.

Leading economist Dan O'Brien says let voters in Northern Ireland decide on border arrangements post Brexit

Dan O'Brien, chief economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs, said a "path back from a no-deal is hard to discern".

"Among the few possible ways out could be a referendum in Northern Ireland on which customs territory people north of the border want to be part of," he said.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, he said such a vote has "obvious and serious downsides" but "could legitimise whatever decision is eventually taken".

Meanwhile, thousands of people including Labour politicians marched through Liverpool yesterday to urge the party to back a so-called 'People's Vote' on the final Brexit deal as its annual conference got under way.

A vote on the party's Brexit stance is set to take place during the four-day conference, but it remains unclear whether the terms of any motion will enable delegates to commit Labour to a second referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn said he will be "bound" by any vote at the conference, but says he believes an early general election is the best way to resolve the disarray over Brexit.

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