A no-deal Brexit would prompt more liberal unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland to consider joining a united Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.
Those uncomfortable with a “nationalistic” Britain which is considering reintroducing the death penalty could join forces to support Irish unity and continued membership of the EU, the Republic’s premier added.
He said it would be “provocative” for the Irish Government to take steps towards engineering a united Ireland now and the country simply wants to maintain the status quo.
Mr Varadkar said: “Certainly in the event of a no-deal more and more people in Northern Ireland will begin to question the union.
“People who you might describe as moderate nationalists or moderate Catholics, who were more or less happy with the status quo, will look more towards a united Ireland.
“And we will increasingly see liberal Protestants and liberal unionists starting to ask the question as to where they feel more at home.
“Is it in a nationalist Britain that is talking about potentially reintroducing the death penalty or something like that or is it part of a European home and part of Ireland?”
Ireland has urged the UK to ratify the draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, which led to Theresa May’s fall from power.
It supports the backstop insurance policy intended to prevent a hard Irish border and keeping the UK’s trade regulations aligned with the EU’s.
Unionists fear that would threaten the integrity of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, while Brexiteers believe it could prevent the UK from striking trade deals with other countries.
The Taoiseach has arrived at the MacGill summer school in Co Donegal. pic.twitter.com/eD0lDzYLxD— michael mchugh (@mmchugh02) July 26, 2019
Mr Varadkar was speaking as he addressed the MacGill summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal.
He said: “One of the things that ironically could really undermine the union of the UK is a hard Brexit, both for Northern Ireland and for Scotland, and that is a problem they are going to have to face.”
He reiterated the Irish Government is making no preparations for unity now, a key demand of Sinn Fein, since it believes that would be provocative to unionists.
The Taoiseach added Ireland’s negotiating aim for Brexit is to maintain the status quo on issues like cross-border trade.
The country is not using the issue to leverage constitutional change in Northern Ireland, he said.
“If there is a hard Brexit on the 31st of October, if the UK takes Northern Ireland out of the EU against the wishes of the majority of people of Northern Ireland and takes away their European citizenship and undermines the Good Friday Agreement in doing so, those conditions will arise whether we like it or not.”