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Tory MP Simon Hoare: Hard border could lead to united Ireland

Tory MP Simon Hoare, the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee
Tory MP Simon Hoare, the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee

A Brexit policy which results in a hard border on the island of Ireland could lead to a united Ireland, the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee has claimed.

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Tory MP Simon Hoare, who was last month elected to his post, said: "We will play with fire if a policy is pursued which adds an accelerant to a demand for a border poll.

"Because I have to say, and it saddens me to say it, I am not convinced that we as unionists would win that poll."

He added: "I am also certain that even if we (unionists) were to prevail and that precious union was to maintain it would open yet again - and one could not refuse the request of a second independence referendum in Scotland, and it is worrying - and I say this as somebody who is saddened to say it, I do not want to wake up and find myself a subject of the United Kingdom of England and Wales."

Mr Hoare was speaking during a debate on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which, if passed, would delay Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley's obligation to call an assembly election to October 21.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson rejected Mr Hoare's assessment about a border poll.

He said: "Although he didn't intend it, does he realise that the kind of comment which he has just made about a border poll and the likelihood of winning the border poll is exactly the kind of language that Sinn Fein want to hear?

"Because the trigger for a border poll in the Belfast Agreement is a belief that there is a change of mind in the views of the people of Northern Ireland as to whether they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

"Is he saying that he - in his short time as the chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee - he has detected that, despite the fact that election results show there is still a vast majority of people who believe that the union is the right option?"

Mr Hoare replied: "Any of us who remained to campaign as part of the European Union will understand it is rather risky - I would suggest - to risk something as precious as our union to that thing called a border poll."

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