Belfast Telegraph

'Very real' chance of united Ireland vote following no-deal Brexit say government ministers

A vote on a united Ireland is becoming a
A vote on a united Ireland is becoming a "very real" possibility according to government ministers.

Several government ministers have warned that there is a very real chance of an Irish unity poll in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The BBC has reported that a senior minister told the news organisation that the prospect of a border poll is "very real" and on Prime Minister Theresa May's mind.

Another cabinet member said that that the government was risking "sleepwalking into a border poll", while another acknowledged that a vote would be a "realistic possibility" if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on March 29.

After meeting the Taoiseach on Friday, DUP leader Arlene Foster was asked to comment on the reports.

"There are many people engaging in project fear at this point in time and we all have to recognise that," Mrs Foster said.

"The Belfast Agreement sets out the criteria for a border poll and it hasn't been satisfied and therefore will not be called."

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Karen Bradley) can call a border poll if she believes it is likely to pass in favour of a united Ireland.

Last month it was reported that Mrs Bradley warned a border poll on the reunification of Ireland was "far more likely" if the United Kingdom crashes out of the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.

A Sky Data poll released on Friday found that 64% of people in the Republic of Ireland would back Irish unity, with 34% of them "strongly" backing it.

The poll found that 16% of people were opposed to unity (6% strongly), with 18% answering neither and 4% saying they didn't know.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein has repeatedly called for a border poll throughout the Brexit negotiations.

Party President Mary Lou McDonald said that a border poll must be called in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"We also know from polling data north and south that public sentiment is of a view that in the event of a crash Brexit, that people's preference would be for Irish unity," she said.

"The only way that anyone can act in a democratic fashion is to respect consent, to respect the democratic wishes of the people of the north of Ireland and to use the Good Friday Agreement, its provisions, to guide us in the time ahead.

"So if there is a Tory crash, and Mrs May has conceded as much on the floor of the House of Commons, in that event, not only will there be pressure for a referendum on Irish unity, there will be absolute democratic imperative to call such a referendum."

However, the UK Government rejected Sinn Fein's call, saying the criteria set out in the Good Friday Agreement "are not satisfied".

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