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Sammy Wilson dismisses Northern Ireland civil servant's Brexit warning as 'a scare tactic'

David Sterling issued the warning in a letter to the country’s political parties.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Mar 2019

DUP BREXIT SPOKESPERSON Sammy Wilson dismissed a severe warning by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service that unemployment could rise significantly if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

David Sterling issued the warning in a letter to the country’s political parties, in which he outlined the “severe consequences” to Northern Ireland of a no-deal Brexit.

He also claimed that the scenario would result in “additional challenges for the police” if the UK’s departure from the bloc appeared to be unfair to those most affected by it, according to a report in The Guardian.

“These consequences do not arise from the possibility of checks or controls on either side of the land border, but would simply be the direct consequence of the legal position that would apply,” he wrote.

“This point is well understood by the business community.”

Appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today, Wilson said that Sterling’s comments were a “scare tactic”, and inferred that it was politically motivated.

“If you look at the studies that have been made about the impact of a no-deal – I don’t care if he’s the head of the civil service or Santa Claus, it really doesn’t matter – the fact of the matter is he’s got it wrong.”

Even the studies that have been done on the impact of a no deal show that the overall impact between now and 2030 is likely to be a reduction in GDP of around 2% to 3% (apart from the Treasury one).

He added: “There may well be an impact of a no-deal, but government has got fiscal and monetary measures to deal with it.”

Sterling said that Northern Ireland’s economy would be particularly impacted, as 75% of all private sector employers were small- or medium-sized enterprises, many of which would close or relocate.

Meanwhile, the country would experience increased food and energy prices, as well as the loss of programmes such as the European Health and Insurance Card and the Erasmus scheme.

“Our advice to the UK Government has consistently been that no deal would have profound and lasting social and economic effects, and that there are very limited actions that could be taken to mitigate these,” he added.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said Sterling’s letter had laid out the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Northern Ireland in “very stark terms”.

“The analysis from the Civil Service points out in very stark terms just how much of a catastrophe a no-deal crash will be for the North of Ireland,” she said.

“Given our unique vulnerabilities, the collective assessment of the government departments here is that the impact of a no-deal Brexit in the North of Ireland will be ‘longer and much more severe’ than anywhere else.”

O’Neill called on the Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservative Party to avoid a no-deal Brexit and listen to the business and farming communities as they guide the UK out of the EU.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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