'Hard border' will return if Britain leaves EU - Kenny
Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has delivered his starkest warning to date that a so-called 'Brexit' could result in the return of a "hard border" with Northern Ireland.
Mr Kenny said the border of the European Union would run "from Dundalk to Derry" if Britain voted to leave.
Describing the June 23 vote as the most important since the passing of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Kenny said a 'Brexit' would be a "regrettable and backward" step for trade and co-operation between North and South.
The Fine Gael leader even cited a number of all-island initiatives, such as the construction of a the new national children's hospital and the joint bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023, in a clear illustration of the Government's desire for the UK to remain in the EU.
And during a keynote speech at Ulster University yesterday, Mr Kenny warned of the prospect of a return of checkpoints, which he said could have a devastating effect.
"We are standing here today, less than 50 miles from the United Kingdom's only land border. Can anyone credibly suggest that nothing would change if that became the western border of the European Union?
"We remember when it was a hard border. We remember the delays, the cost and the division," he said.
"But it is difficult to imagine a situation where there would be no controls or checks on the movement of goods if the UK left the EU. Those who advocate for Leave simply cannot guarantee otherwise."
Mr Kenny said his Government would do its utmost to preserve the free movement of people. But he warned that such a scenario could be difficult if British voters decided to leave.
"The simple fact would be that the border of the European Union would run from Dundalk to Derry. No matter how successfully we negotiate any new arrangements, we all know that cannot be good for this island."
Mr Kenny said there would be no voice at the European Council, the "most powerful table of our continent", to speak on behalf of families living in the UK if the Leave side prevailed.
He described the prospect of Britain leaving the EU as taking "a road where there are no signposts.
"Life could not be the same the day after as the day before," Mr Kenny added.
He said that at present, people could drive from the island of Ireland to the border of Ukraine without needing to display much paperwork.
"As the man said to me this morning, 'I can drive a lorry from here to Ukraine with no papers.'"
Stressing that his Government was unashamedly pressing for Britain to remain, Mr Kenny said the alternative could damage the economies both North and South.
During his 40-minute speech, Mr Kenny expressed his condolences to the family of 24-year-old Darren Rodgers, who died following Northern Ireland's game against Poland in Nice.
The Taoiseach will travel to Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow this week as part of the campaign.