British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that a ‘No Deal Brexit’ could lead to a United Ireland.
Mrs May was speaking in the build-up to the crucial vote in the House of Commons on the compromise Brexit deal, the Withdrawal Agreement, that she has negotiated with the European Union over the last two years.
The agreement sets out the terms of how the UK will leave the EU but is controversial and unpopular with many MPs because of the Northern Ireland Backstop clause. This specifies that Britain will remain in a customs arrangement with the EU if no better solution is found for avoiding the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Critics across all British political parties say it could leave the UK shackled to the EU indefinitely and prevent it making trade deals with other countries.
The Withdrawal Agreement is also unacceptable to DUP MPs because they say it means treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK.
The combined opposition means that Mrs May’s deal looks doomed to fail, even if she brings back a revised version to the House of Commons in the future.
Nevertheless, she has continued to insist that it is the only deal on offer that honours the referendum commitment to leave the EU. In an attempt to rally support, she’s warned that failure to back her plan could lead to a No Deal Brexit, which in turn could lead to a United Ireland and a break-up of the UK.
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: “And to those who think we should reject this deal in favour of no deal, because we cannot get every assurance we want, I ask what would a no-deal Brexit do to strengthen the hand of those campaigning for Scottish independence – or indeed those demanding a border poll in Northern Ireland? Surely this is the real threat to our union.”
Northern Ireland voted by a majority of 56% to 44% to remain in the EU. While it’s still considered unlikely that support for remaining in the EU would be enough to sway Northern Ireland into voting for reunification, there is a growing body of opinion that believes, it could be a significant factor that could make a difference in Ireland’s changing demographics.
The Loyalist community are still in a majority, but not so overwhelmingly as they were in the past.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has already told Mrs May that there must be a referendum on Irish unity in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
The uncertainty has also prompted Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to outline his vision of United Ireland.