Brexit Yes would not bring back the Border
Published 15/04/2016 | 02:30
A British vote to quit the EU would not mean a return of the North-South border in Ireland, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said.
Ms Villiers, a strong advocate for Britain quitting the EU, has accused the "Stay" camp of "scaremongering." In her first major speech on the June 23 EU referendum vote, Ms Villiers said the British-Irish common travel area long pre-dated the European Union's existence.
The speech came as the Acting Cabinet devoted a great deal of time at its meeting yesterday to the Brexit issue with a report from Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.
At the same time the British Ambassador in Dublin, Dominick Chilcott, urged the 130,000 British people living in Ireland to register for a vote in the referendum.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary appealed to Irish people living in Britain to mobilise in favour of EU membership.
He believed most British people favoured EU membership but the referendum could be a mid-term backlash against Prime Minister David Cameron.
Ms Villiers denounced comments from some quarters that so-called "Brexit" could undermine the Northern Ireland peace process as "scaremongering of the worst possible kind".
Ms Villiers said Ireland's Ambassador in London, Dan Mulhall, had pointedly refused to endorse the idea that Brexit could unravel the peace process in evidence he gave to the British parliament's Northern Ireland committee.
She argued that the "Common Travel Area" between Ireland and Britain would outlast the EU. The unique status of Irish citizens in Britain would also persist into the future. Ms Villiers said the reinstatement of a "hard border" in Northern Ireland would not be required as the United Kingdom could use existing laws to deal with illegal entry of immigrants and also prevent illegal working in the UK. Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said he knew Ms Villiers opposed Britain's EU membership. But he said the Irish Government wanted Britain to stay in the EU which continues to support peace and prosperity in the North with generous funds.
"North-South cooperation is far easier when both jurisdictions are within the EU," Mr Flanagan said.