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Tony Blair says no-deal Brexit could be 'devastating' for peace process

He accused some politicians of “playing fast and loose” with the peace process in Northern Ireland.

TONY BLAIR HAS said a no-deal Brexit could lead to “devastating” consequences for the peace process in Northern Ireland.

In an interview Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the former British prime minister and Labour leader said a no-deal Brexit would see the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“No one could responsibly propose [a no-deal Brexit]. It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain and for the peace process in Northern Ireland, it would potentially be devastating.

We would have a hard border, a very hard border. No-deal Brexit means a really hard border between the north and south of Ireland, contrary to the Good Friday Agreement, and it would cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.

Blair, who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement in the 1990s, accused some politicians of “playing fast and loose” with the peace process.

“There are people who cheerfully say you can put the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in a completely different relationship with Europe, in trading terms, and it makes no difference to the economy of Northern Ireland – I don’t know on what basis they would possibly say that,” he said.

Second referendum 

Blair has called for a second Brexit referendum to be held now voters are aware of the deal on the table.

He said people must decide which type of Brexit they want – the “soft” option being proposed by current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or the “hard” alternative being put forward by Brexiteers such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“You’ve got to decide which of those Brexits you want before we leave. Otherwise, we’re going to leave without clarity.”

Blair said leaving the European Union without clarity would mean “no closure” for Britain, leading to prolonged arguments over the issue long after the official withdrawal.

“By then you’ll have left paid your money up front and you’ll have given up your negotiating leverage.

“For the country to do that, as Theresa May wants to do – to leave without knowing what Brexit you get – this would be, in my view, an incredibly foolish thing for the country to do,” he stated.

‘An absolute horror’

Speaking in Belfast last week, May said undoing any of the progress made in Northern Ireland in recent years would be “an absolute horror”.

She said the British government remains committed to the Good Friday Agreement and against a hard border returning between the North and the Republic.

May noted that people living in Northern Ireland and the Republic are understandably “anxious” about Brexit as it is there many of the effects will be most keenly felt.

She is struggling to get a Brexit deal over the line. The draft Withdrawal Agreement struck between her government and the EU was rejected by the House of Commons by 432 votes to 202 last month.

Many politicians have raised concerns about the backstop element of the deak, which aims to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and could see the North stay aligned to some EU rules.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, believes the backstop threatens the United Kingdom and could lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his EU counterparts have repeatedly said the Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated.

Preparations are being made at British, Irish and European level for a no-deal Brexit, in case an agreement is not reached ahead of 29 March.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently said the British government may seek an extension to Article 50 in a bid to secure a deal.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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