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Brexit campaign riddled with contradictions

There can be no certainty about the outcome of next month's referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union but all the indications are that the remain camp is in an increasingly strong position.

Bookmakers are offering odds of 1/6 on retaining the status quo and the latest survey suggests that voters in Northern Ireland will endorse staying in the EU by a margin of at least two to one.

What is striking about such a result is that, if confirmed, it would indicate that the largest northern party, the DUP, and the Stormont secretary of state, Theresa Villiers, are equally out of touch with public opinion on arguably the single most important question of the day.

Four of the main five Assembly groups, as well as an overwhelming majority of TDs in the Dail, are strongly committed to a future strategy which is entirely within the European community.

The DUP is fairly obviously hedging its bets by offering a hesitant leaning towards a British exit, or Brexit, while allowing individual members to make up their own minds.

However, Ms Villiers is in a highly unusual position by campaigning robustly from her Hillsborough Castle base on an issue which appears to place her in direct conflict with the views of not only her own prime minister but also those of most of the ordinary citizens under her jurisdiction.

The contradictions within the Brexit movement intensified yesterday when the Conservative defence minister Penny Mordaunt declared that the migrant crisis would leave the UK powerless to prevent Turkey from joining the EU.

She was immediately contradicted by David Cameron but her claim, if it has any substance, has considerable implications in Ireland where, in the event of a Brexit, the UK would have its only land border with the EU.

Out campaigners suggest that at least one million Turkish residents wish to relocate to the UK, and, if those predictions are correct, their most straightforward route could well be via Ireland.

Brexit supporters including the DUP MP Ian Paisley have envisaged the maintenance of electronic surveillance measures rather than physical checkpoints on the Irish border, but it is impossible to see how such structures could cope with a potential flood of Turkish migrants.

There can be little doubt that a UK withdrawal from the EU would lead immediately to the introduction of a major new infrastructure along the full length of the Irish border which would have deeply alarming consequences in both security and economic terms.

It all presents another compelling argument for a decisive vote in favour of European stability on June 23.

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