Former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has been criticised after claiming Brexit would endanger the Northern Ireland peace process and lead to a “hard border” between the province and the Republic of Ireland.
The Labour peer, who also served as Northern Ireland Secretary, said leaving the European Union (EU) would result in “renewed sectarianism” and increased violence in the province, and that “border posts with elaborate checks” could be established.
He also claimed 50,000 jobs would be at risk in Northern Ireland if Britain votes to leave the EU.
The Independent quotes Lord Mandelson as saying: “Anything in my view that strengthened a sense of separatism between Northern and southern Ireland – physically, economically, psychologically – has the potential to upset the progress that has been made and serve as a potential source of renewed sectarianism that would always bear the risk of triggering further violence in Ireland, particularly in the North.”
However, his comments were branded “ridiculous” and “nonsense” by Sammy Wilson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for East Antrim.
Mr Wilson said that Lord Mandelson’s claims “should be treated with the strongest degree of scepticism.”
“His comments on the consequences of leaving the EU are not just spin they would be a credit to the most energetic acrobat.
“His claim that 50,000 jobs would be at risk is just plain nonsense. For any such prediction to be true every single good sold to the EU countries including the UK would have to stop being traded,” he said, according to local paper Belfast Newsletter.
He also pointed out the Lord Mandelson’s claim that Northern Ireland would have “hard border controls” with the Republic of Ireland is wrong, as travel between the two countries is “not dependent on EU membership”.
“Indeed, it is as important to the RoI as it is to us and the open border at present does not cause problems of large scale illegal immigration at present,” he added.
“Mandelson played the same game when he wanted the UK to join the euro – he was wrong then, he is wrong now.”
UKIP’s Northern Ireland leader David McNarry also called Lord Mandelson’s claims “scaremongering” and accused him of “cheerleading for a united Ireland inside the European Union.”
“There is absolutely no evidence to back up his baseless and fictitious figures,” Mr McNarry added.