Blair, Major warn Brexit will threaten peace in North
Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30
Tony Blair and John Major have warned a vote to leave the EU on June 23 would jeopardise the unity of the UK by undermining peace in Northern Ireland and bolstering the Scottish independence movement.
Speaking together in Northern Ireland, the two former British prime ministers, who both played important roles in the peace process in the 1990s, warned unity was effectively on the ballot paper.
"Throw away the membership of Europe and don't be surprised if in the end, as a consequence, we accidentally throw away our union as well," Mr Major, who was Conservative prime minister from 1990 to 1997, told students at the Ulster University in Derry.
Mr Major warned that if Scotland votes to stay and the rest of the UK votes to leave, the pressure for a new referendum on Scottish independence "could prove to be uncontrollable and politically irresistible".
Mr Blair said the referendum could also undermine the 1998 Northern Ireland peace deal. "If we were to leave on June 23, it would put ... Northern Ireland's future at risk, it would put our union at risk, it would be deeply damaging, a reckless course," said Blair, who oversaw the peace deal as Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007.
Meanwhile, former US President Bill Clinton, who also played a pivotal role in the peace process, wrote in a guest column in the 'New Statesman' magazine that the process had benefited from Britain's EU membership.
"I worry that the future prosperity and peace of Northern Ireland could be jeopardised if Britain withdraws," Clinton wrote.
Mr Blair said the EU and free travel and trade on the island of Ireland had been an important factor in securing the peace deal in 1998 and that it would be "profoundly foolish to play any form of risk with those foundations of stability".
Theresa Villiers, an opponent of EU membership who serves as Britain's minister for Northern Ireland, said the comments by Blair and Major were irresponsible.
"Whatever the result of the referendum, Northern Ireland is not going back to the troubles of its past and to suggest otherwise would be highly irresponsible," Ms Villiers said.