'I would be happy if the Republic of Ireland rejoins the UK' - Tory former cabinet minister
Published 23/02/2016 | 22:17
A Tory former cabinet minister joked that he hoped the Republic of Ireland would rejoin the UK in response to questions over the future of the border with Northern Ireland in the event of a Brexit.
Lord Lawson, the former chancellor who is now chairman of Vote Leave, suggested he would like to see a reversal of the 1922 creation of the Irish Free State.
His comments came after Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, a Leave supporter, rejected suggestions that UK withdrawal from the EU would require border checks to be reinstated with the Republic.
Speaking at an event at the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank, he said: "We do have a special relationship with the Irish Republic, for obvious historical reasons but also for reasons of sentiment.
"These are very strong."
Both countries worked together on tackling the terrorist threat and there will "continue to be very close co-operation".
Asked about the border between the countries he joked: "I would be very happy if the Republic of Ireland - I don't think it's going to happen - were to say we made a mistake in getting independence in 1922, and come back within the United Kingdom. That would be great."
Pressed on whether he believed there would need to be a physical border with checks reinstated he said: "There are checks now because of the terrorist problem. That's one of the places where terrorists are checked.
"I'm not at all sure there needs to be anything further. I don't see why there should be."