A leading Brexit campaigner in Northern Ireland has accused former PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde of treating voters like ignoramuses after he warned the UK will be less safe after leaving the EU.
Sammy Wilson, Democratic Unionist MP, said Mr Orde was part of an elite using scare tactics and he insisted the border with the Irish Republic will not be closed as the common travel area is too valuable to Dublin.
“I think Hugh Orde is wrong. It does not surprise me. He is part of that elite who want to try and scare people, that’s what it is all down to now,” Mr Wilson said.
“It increasingly angers me the disdainful way in which they are treating this campaign. They treat the people who have got the vote on June 23 as ignoramuses who can be bamboozled by all this speculation and hope they will never question it.
“People need to ask themselves, who loses most from losing the Common Travel Area (CTA). The Irish Republic loses maybe more and for that reason it can be preserved.”
Mr Orde, Northern Ireland chief constable from 2002 to 2009 and former head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, used a letter to the Irish Times to call for Brexit leaders to set out in simple terms how border security in Ireland would be handled if the UK leaves the EU.
“In terms of the border that divides the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the argument to leave becomes farcical,” Mr Orde said.
“It is inevitable that border controls would have to return – the whole Brexit argument is around this very point.
“If you shut the front door, leaving the back door open would be stupid. Indeed, serious players such as Lord Nigel Lawson and UK justice minister Dominic Raab have acknowledged this fact.”
Mr Wilson accused the former police chief of resorting to personal abuse of Northern Ireland Secretary of State and Brexit supporter Theresa Villiers when he said she “continues to keep her head firmly stuck in a peat bog” over the border issue.
“When someone has to become personally abusive in that way it’s usually a fairly good sign the argument is weak,” the DUP MP for East Antrim said.
“To make the references he has to Theresa Villiers, who will know as much about the Common Travel Area and security required to keep that border secure as he does … he does not need to resort to personal abuse.”
Mr Orde said the peat bog reference was a play on an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
Mr Wilson called on the former police chief to listen to statements from political leaders in the Irish Republic who have not been definitive about how the open border with Northern Ireland would change.
“Taoiseach Enda Kenny this week has not been definitive in his view that there would have to be border controls – there could be, there might be, there’s a possibility, and we have had some more positive comments that the CTA would be kept,” Mr Wilson said.
“Mr Orde should listen to the ambivalence of people who would want to sound a more certain note on this.”
Mr Wilson said the UK and Ireland enjoyed common travel long before the EU.
“What is there in it for the Irish Republic not to keep the CTA and keep the current safeguards that exist,” Mr Wilson said.
“Are they going to open their ports and airports to people from outside the Irish Republic or the UK, then hope that those people who, once they get through, if they are coming as economic migrants, will go to the UK for work, or if they are coming to do terrorism will go to the UK and not realise that Ireland is as good a place to do it.”
Mr Wilson said the vote was too close to call but cautioned that the status quo is always hard to shift.
“There’s been a despicable campaign by the Remain people by telling outright lies, scare tactics, treating the public with disdain and bringing in all these big hitters and those who appear to have some standing in society so that somehow the lumpen proletariat will fall into line,” he said.