Villiers plays down concerns 'Leave' vote would herald end of common travel area with Republic
The common travel area between Ireland and the UK can continue even if Britain votes to pull out of the European Union, the Secretary of State has said.
Theresa Villiers, who is part of the 'leave' campaign that favours exiting the EU, said the close relationship between the UK and the Republic is not simply dependent on European Union membership.
And she said it would be in the interests of both governments to ensure that the common travel arrangement between the two states continues in the event of a Brexit.
Irish fears around a possible British exit relate to the potential economic consequences, and uncertainty about any impact on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic. "Since the creation of the Irish state, there has been a very close relationship between UK citizens and Irish citizens and I am convinced that that will continue," Ms Villiers said during Boris Johnson's visit here.
"After all, the common travel area we enjoy between our two countries was in existence for decades before we joined the EU... there's no reason why it shouldn't continue afterwards [if a Brexit occurs]. So it can certainly continue in the event of a UK exit from the EU and it would be in the interests of both our countries to do that."
First Minister Arlene Foster said any issues about the border would be thrashed out in negotiations in the aftermath of a potential vote to leave the EU.
She said there was a lot of scaremongering concerning the peace process: "The peace process has not been built on the European Union. The peace process has been built on the people in Northern Ireland saying we will not go back to the past and I absolutely do not see any threat to that from an exit from the European Union."