Northern Ireland news

Brexit would trigger ‘economic shock' in Northern Ireland, says Chancellor George Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne (third left) in Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland to meet members of the NI Stronger In campaign group who wish to remain in the EU. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
David Young, Press Association

BREXIT would trigger a "profound economic shock" in Northern Ireland and result in an inevitable hardening of the Irish border, the British chancellor warned last night.

George Osborne, who was in Belfast on Sunday, pointed to a new Treasury analysis and suggested that unemployment would rise 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.

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 said.

Mr Osborne also warned of the impact on cross-border trade, saying that border and custom checks would have to be implemented in the event of Brexit.

He also questioned whether the free movement of people across Ireland under the Common Travel Area arrangement between the UK and Ireland could be maintained.

The chancellor said the north is "particularly vulnerable" to the economic shock he claims would follow an EU exit, noting the land border with the Republic; the region's reliance on agriculture; and the peace process funding it continues to receive from the EU.

He said the negative impact would also "spill over" and affect the Republic's economy.

By contrast, Mr Osborne said the north 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 Tuesday's deadline.

"At the moment, Northern Ireland is among the best regions of the UK when it comes to creating jobs," the chancellor said.

"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."

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