BREXITEERS “don’t give a damn” about “the precious Union”, a leading commentator has said after the chief economist of the campaign to leave the EU argued quitting the bloc was more important than the Good Friday Agreement.

Irish writer Fintan O’Toole hit out at remarks made by Andrew Lilico on social media yesterday in which Lilico said: “It oughtn’t to have been pressed to this choice, but if Ireland and the EU force it to be, then when push comes to shove, leaving the EU – properly, truly leaving it – is massively more important than the Belfast Agreement. It is nowhere near a top Brexit priority.”

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He continued: “I don’t believe there need to be stop-and-check controls at the Irish border, but I am not prepared to see any compromises on anything fundamental to avoid them.

“Avoiding them (especially insofar as they are implemented by the EU not the UK) simply isn’t that important.”

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Highlighting Lilico’s comments, O’Toole tweeted: “This from the chief economist of the Leave campaign at least tells the truth that the Brexiteers continue to evade -- they don’t give a damn about Northern Ireland or the “precious Union”.

O’Toole’s comments reflect the findings of a poll earlier this year which found that Brexit supporters in England would prefer to lose Scotland than Gibraltar if that was a cost of quitting the EU.

Pollsters from Panelbase asked people south of the Border for their views on a scenario in which the price of leaving the EU would be for the UK to be without Scotland or Northern Ireland or Gibraltar.

Voters expressed most concern about Gibraltar heading off, followed by Scotland and were least concerned about Northern Ireland opting to go.

Some 37% said losing Gibraltar would not be a price worth paying for Brexit, while 35% said losing Scotland would not be worth it. In terms of losing Northern Ireland just 31% said it was not a price worth paying for Brexit.

The issue of how to keep an open border in Ireland has become the main sticking point for the PM in terms of both securing backing for her plans from her Cabinet and securing a exit deal with the EU.