German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a resurgence of conflict in Ireland as a possible consequence of Britain leaving the EU.
Speaking at a meeting of German trade union leaders in Berlin, Mrs Merkel (pictured, right) warned that current fears of a hard border following Brexit show “how quickly you get to questions of war and peace”.
The remarks come just a week after top EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that there would inevitably be consequences, such as customs controls, as a result of the
The dilemma of how to deal with the border through Ireland as a result of Brexit has increased pressure for a ‘border poll’ within the Six Counties on Irish reunification, which was specifically permitted under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
But DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed this week she does not expect to see a referendum on a united Ireland in her lifetime, prompting arguments that she is “running scared” from the debate.
Ms Foster, who is 46 years of age, dismissed renewed talk of a border poll since the Brexit vote and Sinn Fein’s recent resurgence at the polls.
During an interview with BBC Radio, the former First Minister, who is 46 years of age, said she was “very confident” there would not be a border poll in her lifetime.
“There are many unionists who voted to remain within the European Union, but if they were asked the question around staying in the United Kingdom or going into a united Ireland, they would very firmly say that they wanted to stay in the United Kingdom,” she claimed. “It won’t happen.”
Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard said Mrs Foster was “running scared of public opinion on an Irish unity referendum”.
He said her remarks again highlighted the DUP’s “arrogance and contempt for the democratic process”.
The South Down Westminster candidate and Assembly member said a recent opinion poll showed that a majority of people in the north were in favour of holding a referendum on Irish unity.
“The Tory government’s attempt to drag us out of the EU against the democratic wishes of the majority of people in the north has put the debate on Irish unity front and centre in the political agenda,” he said.
“The Good Friday Agreement contains provision for a referendum on Irish unity and that cannot be swept aside by Arlene Foster or anyone else.”
Mr Hazzard said it was not in the DUP’s gift to determine when a border poll happened.
“Her comments are another example of the arrogance of the DUP,” he said.
“Sinn Fein has called for a referendum on unity to be held within the next five years and we are building support for that.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that the comments were “based on wishful thinking rather than any political foresight”.
He said the Brexit vote had transformed the constitutional landscape in Ireland and Britain and that a recent acknowledgement that the north could automatically rejoin the EU in the event of Irish reunification had created an “unprecedented” opportunity.
“The job of Irish nationalism now is to put in the hard yards to make sure we win a border poll. We have to persuade our friends and neighbours that their interests are best served in a united Ireland,” he said.
“A unity referendum is no longer the preserve of Irish nationalism alone, it also belongs to European internationalism - a unity referendum is our opportunity to unite this island within the European Union.”
Last month, European agreed measures that would enable the north to automatically rejoin the EU in the event of a united Ireland. In April, British ‘Brexit Minister’ David Davis gave a similar undertaking.