Peter Hain tells secretary of state to stop freelancing over Brexit

Posted By: June 02, 2016

John Manley. Irish News (Belfast). Thursday, June 2, 2016

SECRETARY of State Theresa Villiers has been bluntly told she is wrong in her claims that a Brexit would not lead to border controls.

One of her predecessors, Peter Hain, last night added his voice to senior figures in politics and public life who have warned of the impact in Ireland of a ‘leave’ vote in this month’s referendum.

But despite doubts also being raised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan and former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde, Ms. Villiers remains steadfast in her belief that free movement between north and south would continue.

Mr. Hain, pictured left, who was secretary of state under Labour prime minister Tony Blair, accused Ms. Villiers of putting her personal beliefs ahead of her duty to the people she serves.

He said he has “always been of the view that there will be a need for border controls” if the UK leaves the EU.

“Her duty is to the people of Northern Ireland – not to freelance on an exit-Europe crusade at the expense of hard-fought peace and stability.”

Ms. Villiers told The Irish News that keeping the common travel area was in the interests of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

“I would find it surprising if either country set about trying to dismantle an arrangement which has served us both well for very nearly 100 years.”

Her immediate predecessor Owen Paterson last night backed her claims, but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood all hit out at Ms. Villiers’s position.

It came as a leading border businessman said he was “praying and hoping” for a remain vote in the June 23 referendum.

Ian Doherty of Doherty Meats in Derry said he fears a Brexit would have dire consequences for border areas.