Former British Prime Minister John Major insists return of a hard border would be 'disastrous'
Former British Prime Minister John Major has warned that a return to a hard border would be "disastrous".
Speaking at the inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture in Co Longford today, Mr Major said the erection of a hard border of any kind may have grave consequences for the north.
His comments came just hours after Theresa May delayed the crucial vote on her Brexit deal amid chaotic scenes in Westminster.
“A hard border now or at any time would be disastrous,” Mr Major said.
“That said, I do not believe a majority [in Westminster] will commit to a hard border becoming a reality.
“Of course, a new border will not remotely resemble its hated predecessor, with barbed wire, listening processes and army checkpoints.
“But any new border, however gentle, will become a symbol, both physically and emotionally. It will prevent not only a barrier between north and south, unionists and nationalists, but between the UK and her nearest neighbour.”
The former Prime Minister added that the hard work done to secure peace in the north would be disrupted by a hard border.
“Peace is at risk if we erect barriers that remind people of ancient disputes," he added.
“Peace is not secure, it never is, and any new border will be a focus to the wild men on the fringes to reactivate old disputes and hatreds that should be laid to rest forever.
“Until sectarianism is ended that will never be fully achieved.”
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was among those who gathered in the Backstage Theatre to hear Mr Major's speech.
Mr Major told attendees that as the UK prepares to leave the European Union there is reason to be concerned.
“The Republic, as well as the United Kingdom, need the power sharing executive to return to its responsibilities in Northern Ireland.
“If the House of Commons cannot find a way forward then the risk of a hard border remains possible.”
He added that the people of the north may seek a United Ireland if political troubles in the UK persist.
“The Irish demand for a backstop is a bogus ploy to keep the UK in a customs union. In truth, a backstop is of vital national interest for Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“If the people of northern Ireland see a border return, together with a continuous period in which there is no power sharing, then I wonder will they not look once again for a United Ireland."