Brexit: Civil service no-deal warning ‘scare tactics’

Sammy Wilson

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Sammy Wilson has said he did not care if David Sterling was “head of the civil service or Santa Claus”

A letter from the head of NI’s civil service warning about the impact of a no-deal Brexit has been dismissed by a DUP MP as “scare tactics”.

Sammy Wilson was giving evidence to Westminster’s NI Affairs committee.

On Tuesday, a letter from David Sterling to NI’s political parties warning about “grave” consequences was published.

Mr Wilson said he did not care if Mr Sterling “was head of the civil service or Santa Claus”, that he was wrong.

The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29.

But the House of Commons rejected the government’s first Brexit deal over the Irish border backstop, and talks are continuing in Brussels between the UK and EU in a bid to negotiate changes to the withdrawal agreement.

The DUP has said it will not support the deal unless there are “legally binding” changes to it.

United Ireland

Mr Wilson was asked by DUP colleague Ian Paisley about his views on those who said a no-deal Brexit would lead to a united Ireland.

Mr Wilson dismissed that as “scare tactics”, and said another example of that was the letter from Mr Sterling.

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David Sterling said cross-border trade could be a “serious dilemma” in the event of a no-deal Brexit

“The fact of the matter is he has got it wrong,” Mr Wilson told MPs.

‘Civil disobedience’

The NI Affairs committee is also hearing evidence from Green Party leader Clare Bailey, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister and People Before Profit (PBP) MLA Gerry Carroll.

They are being asked about the Brexit deal, the Irish border backstop and how Northern Ireland should be represented in future UK-EU negotiations.

People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll said “civil disobedience on the streets” could be the result of a no-deal Brexit.

The MLA said his party would call on people to protest against “any resurrection of a hard border”.

He cited evidence from the PSNI chief constable that any future checkpoints could be a target for dissident violence.

“It is very dangerous, it’s tantamount to playing with fire if people think they can erect more checkpoints or security on the border,” he said.

Mr Carroll said he believed there would be protests across the island, not just at border areas, if a no-deal Brexit led to any hardening of the Irish border.

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