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Europe's our best hope for prosperity and peace, says former Ireland rugby ace Ringland

By Staff Reporters

Published 24/02/2016

Theresa Villiers arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street yesterday
Theresa Villiers arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street yesterday

Former Ireland rugby international and unionist politician Trevor Ringland has added his voice to the Brexit debate, arguing that the EU offers the "possibility of long-term peace, stability and relative prosperity".

The former British and Irish Lion also argued that the European Union has been a stabilising influence on nations once torn apart by war and violence.

Mr Ringland is a solicitor who has been a high-profile member of the Ulster Unionists and later the NI Conservatives.

A member of the British-Irish Association, he has also been involved in reconciliation projects and cross-community activity.

"Whether the decision is to leave or to stay, it's worth remembering that, whatever the arguments, the EU has managed to maintain good relations between countries and peoples with a significant history of conflict," he said.

"It was no mean achievement in the circumstances, and demonstrates a determination not to allow the consequences of past actions to affect succeeding generations. That's something which resonates in Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has rejected suggestions that UK withdrawal from the EU would require border checks to be reinstated with the Republic.

She said: "No one is wanting to wind the clock back and to introduce the kind of security checks at the border that there were during the Troubles."

Ms Villiers, who is campaigning for Brexit, said there was "every reason to suggest" that the UK and Ireland could maintain free movement under the kind of common travel area arrangement which existed before the two countries joined the EU in 1973.

Ms Villiers dismissed calls for her to step down from her Cabinet position while campaigning for a Leave vote, telling BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to have chosen a side in this referendum."

Her comments came as a Tory former cabinet minister joked that he hoped the Republic would rejoin the UK.

Former chancellor Lord Lawson, who is now chairman of Vote Leave, suggested he would like to see a reversal of the 1922 creation of the Irish Free State. Asked about the Irish border at a Chatham House foreign affairs think tank event, he joked: "I would be very happy if the Republic of Ireland - I don't think it's going to happen - were to say we made a mistake in getting independence in 1922, and come back within the United Kingdom. That would be great."

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