GLENTIES, Ireland (Reuters) – The question of unification of Ireland and UK-ruled Northern Ireland will inevitably arise if Britain leaves the European Union without a divorce on 31 October, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.
FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar arrives in Brussels, Belgium on 2 July 2019 for a Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union. Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / Pool via REUTERS
He also warned that a so-called hard withdrawal could undermine Scotland's place in the United Kingdom.
His comments on Friday led to a sharp rejection of Northern Ireland's largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party, whose MP Ian Paisley said the Irish government's language was "unhelpful and unnecessarily aggressive."
Political Forum When the Irish government intends to publicly plan a unified Ireland, Varadkar said that was not the case at the moment, as pro-British trade unionists in Northern Ireland considered it provocative.
"But in the case of a tough Brexit, these questions arise," he said.
"If Britain expels Northern Ireland from the European Union against the will of the majority of people in Northern Ireland – deprives it of its European citizenship and undermines the Good Friday Agreement – these questions arise whether we want it or not," Varadkar said the MacGill Summer School conference in northwest Ireland.
"We have to be ready for that."
In the 2016 referendum, 56 percent voted in Northern Ireland to stay in the EU. [3,659,004] Over 3,600 people died in three decades of violence between Irish nationalists in search of a united Ireland and British security forces and pro-British "trade unionists".
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the violence, calls for referendums to be held on both sides of the border to unify the island, with London and Dublin seeing it supported by the public. The British Government does not believe there is enough support now.
Varadkar also suggested that voters in Scotland, where 62 percent voted in the 2016 referendum to remain in the EU, could once again press for independence.
"Ironically, one of the things that could really undermine the Union – the Union of the United Kingdom – is a hard exit for both Northern Ireland and Scotland. But that's a problem they have to face, "Varadkar said.
Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Janet Lawrence