NIO worried about Londonderry border as Villiers pushes Brexit

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO), is worried about renewed border and customs controls in Londonderry as well as the threat of cross-border terrorism, despite Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers’, pro-Brexit stance.

While Ms Villiers is campaigning to leave her charges in the NIO have been briefing MPs about how bad leaving would be for people living along the Londonderry and Tyrone border with Donegal.

In a written submission to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s (NIAC) inquiry into Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum, the NIO warns: “It is important to business and communities that the border remains fully open.

“Since the 1920s the UK and Ireland have operated a Common Travel Area, which allows for nationals of both countries to travel and live in each country without immigration controls.

“In addition, both countries are part of the EU Customs Union, which means that there are no customs controls on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Without this, goods being exported across the border could be subject to various forms of customs controls and their liability to duty determined according to complex Rules of Origin.

“The absence of cross-border restrictions has both encouraged cooperation and increased trade over the last twenty years. Overall, around 60 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports go to the EU, with 37 per cent going to Ireland alone.

“If the UK left the EU, these arrangements could be put at risk. Questions would also need to be answered about how the Common Travel Area, which covers the movement of people, would operate with the UK outside the EU, and Ireland inside.”

It also warns of the potential threat of terrorism, domestic and international.

“Cooperation with Ireland has been vital to maintaining peace and overcoming security threats in Northern Ireland. The UK and Ireland will always co-operate closely against terrorism, but membership of the EU enhances our ability to co-operate with Member States to combat crime and terrorism and keep our country safe.

“Membership of the EU allows Northern Ireland law enforcement agencies to benefit from use of the European Arrest Warrant and the EU watch-list. Through the EU we are also members of Europol, the EU organisation that helps EU countries to fight serious crime and terrorism. EU-wide action has made it possible to bring in measures to help cut off finances to terrorists and that will make it harder for them to get access to bomb-making materials and firearms.

“As the British Director of Europol said: ‘if the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it wouldn’t have the same access to that well-regulated, well-developed capability, and I think,’” the submission reads.