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Theresa Villiers claims ‘no need to erect border controls' after Brexit

From left, John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel at the launch of the Vote Leave campaign in February. Picture by Stefan Rousseau, Press Association
Connla Young

SECRETARY of State Theresa Villiers has claimed there would be "no need to erect border controls" in Ireland if the UK leaves the European Union.

She was responding on Monday to an interview by former British chancellor and fellow Brexit campaigner Nigel Lawson who said "there would have to be border controls" following a 'leave' vote in the June referendum.

His comments appeared to contradict remarks by Ms Villiers earlier this year when she said there was “every reason to suggest” free movement could be maintained.

Tory junior minister Dominic Raab also said at the weekend that a “form of checks” may be needed if Britain leaves the EU and Ireland remains a member.

Nationalist politicians on both sides of the border expressed concern last night at the prospect of a return of border controls.

Both Lord Lawson and Ms Villiers are prominent members of the Vote Leave campaign.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, the former chancellor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said measures would be needed to control immigration.

“That can be stopped, there would have to be border controls but not a prevention of genuine Irish from coming in, from crossing the border,” he said.

Asked about the comments, Ms Villiers said yesterday: “If we Vote Leave we would be entitled to remove people who have entered the UK through our common border with Ireland if they are not entitled to be here.

“We had a common travel area with Ireland before we joined the EU and we will have one after we vote to leave.

“As Lord Lawson said, Irish citizens will always have a special status in the UK.

“Of course it is important that the external border of our common travel area is properly controlled.

“This is made easier by the fact that Ireland is outside Schengen.

“There would be no need to erect border controls between the UK and Ireland after we Vote Leave.”

Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith voiced concern yesterday about Lord Lawson's comments.

“We have been warning for some time that Brexit would lead inexorably to the return of border controls,” he said.

“This has now been confirmed by leading Brexit campaigners.

“While each individual in Northern Ireland will make up their own mind on this important issue, they should do so in the knowledge that re-introducing border controls will have a very negative effect on trade, tourism and agriculture."

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said attempts to reinstate border controls would be a setback for the political process and a challenge the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Mr Lawson’s comments are in contradiction of what British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and the NIO has said about border controls,” she said.

SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly also warned that border posts could impact on the north's economy.

“It would be outrageous in the centenary year to put up the border controls, never mind any year,” she said.

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