For­mer PMs Blair, Ma­jor warn Brexit would threaten UK unity

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

BELFAST—Tony Blair and John Ma­jor warned on Thurs­day a vote to leave the Euro­pean Union on June 23 would jeop­ar­dise the unity of the United King­dom by un­der­min­ing peace in North­ern Ire­land and bol­ster­ing the Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence move­ment.

Speak­ing to­gether in North­ern Ire­land, the two for­mer Bri­tish prime min­is­ters, who both played im­por­tant roles in the prov­ince’s peace process in the 1990s, warned that unity was ef­fec­tively on the bal­lot pa­per. “Throw away the mem­ber­ship of Europe and don’t be sur­prised if in the end, as a con­se­quence, we ac­ci­den­tally throw away our union as well,” Ma­jor, Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter from 1990 to 1997, told stu­dents at the Ul­ster Univer­sity in Lon­don­derry.

“The most suc­cess­ful union in world history could be bro­ken apart for good,” he said.

Ma­jor warned that if Scot­land votes to stay and the rest of the United King­dom votes to leave, the pres­sure for a new ref­er­en­dum on Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence “could prove to be un­con­trol­lable and po­lit­i­cally ir­re­sistible.”

Scots re­jected in­de­pen­dence by 55-45 per­cent in a vote in 2014 but since then the Scot­tish Na­tional Party has gained fur­ther strength, tak­ing 56 of the 59 seats rep­re­sent­ing Scot­land in the na­tional par­lia­ment in Lon­don in last May’s na­tional election.

“If the UK was out­side the Euro­pean Union I could well en­vis­age a dif­fer­ent re­sult” he added.

Blair said the ref­er­en­dum could also un­der­mine the 1998 North­ern Ire­land peace deal that ended three decades of killings be­tween Catholic Irish na­tion­al­ists who wanted the prov­ince to unite with Ire­land and their Protes­tant ri­vals who wanted to keep it in the United King­dom. Over 3,600 died in the con­flict.

“If we were to leave on June 23, it would put ... North­ern Ire­land’s future at risk, it would put our union at risk, it would be deeply dam­ag­ing, a reck­less course,” said Blair, who over­saw the peace deal as Labour prime min­is­ter from 1997 to 2007.—Reuters

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