North's status in UK would be 'thrown into jeopardy' by crash-out Brexit - Conservative MP
CONSERVATIVE MP Dominic Grieve has said a crash-out Brexit would put Northern Ireland’s status as a part of the United Kingdom at risk.
He also said that bringing about Irish unification through Brexit strikes him as being “a very bad idea” and raised the prospect of Loyalist violence in such a scenario.
Mr Grieve, a former UK attorney general is in Dublin to deliver a speech to the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) think-tank.
He has been spearheading the charge within the House of Commons to prevent Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal, a prospect that Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson has not ruled out.
Mr Grieve believes there is a majority in Westminster opposed to a no-deal Brexit and is himself in favour of a second referendum.
This afternoon he spoke of his fears for Northern Ireland if the UK does leave the EU without a deal.
“I think a crash-out Brexit makes a political crisis in respect of Northern Ireland’s future status more likely,” he told reporters.
He argued that Northern Ireland’s current position within the UK works because there’s a majority of the population who are comfortable with the arrangements that were delivered by the Good Friday Agreement.
He said that “includes sections of the Nationalist community as much as the Unionist”.
He added: “that, I think, will be thrown into jeopardy by a no-deal Brexit.
"Indeed Brexit itself is probably likely to put it under strain even if it is done in a controlled fashion. So yes I worry about that.”
He said he also worries about Scotland staying in the UK in the longer term.
Mr Grieve said he is concerned at a possible return to violence in the North when asked about the possibility of a border poll as part of a route to a United Ireland.
He said: “it worries me because I think I know Northern Ireland well enough to know that acceptance of change - even if you have a minority status - doesn’t always follow.”
He said the history of the Troubles was “a series of perfectly clear grievances held by sections of the Northern Ireland community which meant that they wouldn’t accept ordinary democratic processes… because they felt that as a result their status and their way of life was under threat and they were also discriminated against.”
Mr Grieve added; “There were enough of them to create violence and in exactly the same way in my view the same exists within the Loyalist community.”
“So bringing about Irish unification... through the mechanism of Brexit has always struck me as being a very bad idea,” he said.
Asked if he believes Boris Johnson is aware of such risks he replied: “I would like to think he’s conscious of these risks. He’s a highly intelligent man.”
But he claimed that “the rhetoric that he has embarked upon in the course of this campaign is not that of somebody who is using rational judgments.”
He gave the example of how Mr Johnson has said he would be willing to prorogue – essentially suspend - the House of Commons if it tried to obstruct a no-deal Brexit in order to carry it out.
He said this would be “hugely undermining of parliamentary democracy and completely unacceptable and would precipitate a massive political crisis."