Debunking the irresponsible scare stories about Brexit and the Northern Ireland peace process

Debunking the irresponsible scare stories about Brexit and the Northern Ireland peace process

Theresa Villiers will be speaking at BrexitCentral’s Rally at the Conservative Conference alongside John Longworth and Daniel Hannan MEP in Hall 5 at the ICC tomorrow, on Monday 3rd October at 5.45pm.

One of the turning points of the referendum was when Sky’s Faisal Islam asked David Cameron which would come first: World War III or the Brexit recession? It was one of those telling moments when a few well-chosen words provide devastating clarity and it is no wonder that it left David Cameron in some difficulty.

Whilst we cannot yet be certain of what the long term consequences of Brexit will be, the early signs are positive. The OECD, who warned of a major negative economic shock in April, have upgraded their growth projections for the UK for 2016 (from 0.1% to 1.8%). There has been good news from the ONS and the Treasury has reversed its gloomy post referendum forecast. It has restored its 1.8% forecast, predicting that growth this year will not be affected by the Brexit vote.

The car industry enjoyed its highest August sales for 14 years, and Honda has announced plans to make their Swindon plant a global hub for car exports. July saw record 3.8 million tourists pour £2.5 billion into the UK economy in just four weeks. There is no sign of the spike in inflation that Remainers were certain was on the way and our trade deficit in exports narrowed in July.

But the economy was not the only issue on which Remainers made ominous predictions. One of the most irresponsible of all came from Tony Blair during a visit to Derry/Londonderry – that a Brexit vote would undermine the Northern Ireland peace process.

In making that assertion, Mr Blair demeaned his own legacy in Northern Ireland. It was insulting to suggest that a vote to leave the EU would mean that people in Northern Ireland weaken or abandon their commitment to the principle that their future will only ever be decided by democracy and consent. Unfortunately there are criminal gangs in Northern Ireland who still resort to terrorism, but they have virtually no public support and there is no evidence to indicate that the referendum result has changed that in any way.

Throughout the campaign, Remainers routinely asserted that Brexit would mean the break-up of the United Kingdom. Wrong again. A recent BBC poll in Northern Ireland showed 63% wanting to remain in the UK, while only 22% support a united Ireland – results very little changed from the last time the poll was conducted in 2013.

Nor does Brexit mean we have to abandon the Common Travel Area with Ireland that has worked well for nearly a hundred years. In the unlikely event of large numbers of non-Irish EU citizens crossing our land border, they would be committing a criminal offence if they work without the relevant legal permissions and they would not be able to rent property or open a bank account. Enforcement of these rules is a better way to deal with illegal immigration than trying to introduce land border checks.

Leaving the customs union need not involve a ‘hard border’ for transporting goods. Technology has moved on dramatically since customs queues used to occur on some border roads in the years before EU membership. Alternatively, customs checks could be carried out on the external border the Common Travel Area when goods leave either the UK or Ireland.

With pragmatism on both sides, we can keep the border as open as it is today. Both the UK and Irish Governments are clear that that is what they want to happen. So it makes no sense for the EU to seek to inflict unnecessary division in the island of Ireland and punish one of its continuing Member States in the process.

That brings me lastly to the Remain threat that the EU would punish us if we voted for Brexit. Leaving aside the oddity of an organisation which purports to champion democratic values punishing people for the way they voted, Article 8 of the European Treaty places a legal requirement on the EU to maintain good relations with neighbouring states and to maintain “an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness”.

There may be hard-liners in the Commission who talk in hostile terms, but even Guy Verhofstadt, the arch federalist appointed to the EU’s Brexit negotiating team, has acknowledged that this process should not be about punishment or revenge. Addressing the European Parliament he shared a simple truth that the EU needs to make a success from Brexit for the citizens of the remaining EU.

No one would benefit from a trade war. As Justin Protts of Civitas pointed out in his article for BrexitCentral last week, the UK is a key trading partner for the EU whose business is linked to almost 6 million jobs across its 27 Member States. It is the interests of both sides that the forthcoming negotiation delivers a deal between the UK and the EU which maximises the opportunities for trade between us in both goods and services.