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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Article 50 should be revoked with immediate effect, John Major tells Dublin event

Leaver or remainer, no-one can welcome chaos, the former Conservative prime minister said.

FORMER UK PRIME Minister John Major has called for London to revoke Article 50 as a matter of urgency. 

Speaking at an event in Dublin this morning, he said it was time for British politicians to turn to “reality and not fiction”. 

Remarking on Theresa May’s decision to call off today’s ‘meaningful’ vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons, Major said: 

Whether you are a remainer or a leaver no-one can welcome chaos.

Politicians, he urged, need to protect the economic wellbeing of the British people 

“We now need to revoke Article 50 with immediate effect,” Major said. The clock must be stopped, he said, “we need time”. 

The UK, he said, will find a way through the present morass.

But we need time to find it.

May is to visit Germany’s Angela Merkel today as she works to salvage her Brexit deal. 

Earlier this week, she dismissed the idea of abandoning Brexit after the European Court of Justice ruled that the Article 50 process could be stopped without the UK seeking approval from Brussels. 

The court’s ruling fueled calls for a second referendum on Brexit. But May said that halting Article 50 would be a betrayal of those who voted Leave in 2016 and would mean  “going back on the vote of the referendum and remaining in the EU”. 

John Major IIEA Address-0003 Source: Iain White - Fennell Photography

Major, who led the mid-90s Conservative government, is in Ireland for a series of events marking the 25th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration – one of the landmark agreements of the peace process which helped pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement five years later. 

Building on the progress of talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume, the 1993 agreement between Major and then-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds signalled that republicans and loyalists could attend talks on the future of of the North if paramilitaries handed over their arms. 

Speaking at the inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial lecture in Co Longford yesterday, Major said there had been ”breathtaking ignorance” from unionists who opposed the Brexit backstop. 

Answering questions from the audience at this morning’s event at the Westin Hotel, he said we should not forget the murders of customs officials at the border in the early days of the Troubles. 

The hard-won peace in the North shouldn’t be taken for granted, he said – adding that he was yet to meet anyone who lived in the border region who was not perturbed by the prospect of a reimposition of a hard border. 

There are figures within loyalism and republicanism who would be only too willing to exploit the target of a border infrastructure, he warned. 

Major said it was a risk “that should not be taken”. 

Asked whether he thought a united Ireland was now more likely to happen and whether it would give him grief if Northern Ireland left the UK, he said “of course it would give me grief”. 

“You cannot do that sort of thing without broad consent,” he said – stressing that harmony north and south and free-flowing trade were the most important priorities for the island.

Asked if he thought Brexit was irrevocable and if he envisaged the UK might now instead remain in the EU he said that in the present situation “I don’t think anything is impossible”. 

He said he thought the remain outcome could only come about if there was a second referendum and people voted conclusively to stay in the EU. 

As other options fall by the wayside it becomes more possible, he said – but that doesn’t mean it’s likely. “It’s certainly not impossible,” he said. 

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