Travel link would stay if UK left the EU - Villiers
The common travel area between Ireland and the UK can continue even if the latter votes to pull out of the EU, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has told the Irish Independent.
Theresa Villiers, who is part of the 'out' campaign, said the close relationship between the UK and Ireland is not dependent on EU membership, and it would be in the interests of both governments to ensure the common travel arrangement between the two states continued in the event of a so-called 'Brexit'.
It was a view shared by London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson, who said the common travel area predates EU membership.
Irish fears regarding a possible British exit centre around the potential economic consequences of the move, as well as uncertainty about what it would mean for the relationship between the North and South.
"Since the creation of the Irish State, there has been a very close relationship between UK citizens and Irish citizens and I am convinced that that will continue," Ms Villiers said. "After all, the common travel area we enjoy between our two countries was in existence for decades before we joined the EU...there's no reason why it shouldn't continue [if a Brexit occurs]."
Mr Johnson, whose backing for the 'leave' campaign was seen as a blow to British PM David Cameron, said the links between Ireland and Britain will remain strong no matter what happens: "The free travel area is about 100 years old. There will always be huge links between the UK and the Republic...It's just a chance for the UK... to get rid of so much of the bureaucracy and the legislation we've abandoned any attempt to control," he said.