Could Brexit cause a set back to the Northern Ireland peace process? Lord Mandelson this week expressed concern regarding the implications a possible Brexit could have on Northern Ireland.
The former Northern Ireland Secretary and European Trade Commissioner, in a speech to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, said the EU had been “a fundamental stabilising presence in Ireland’s recent history”.
Brexit, Mandelson warned, could “upset” the peace process in Northern Ireland. If the UK voted to leave the EU, it is highly likely a “hard border” would return, risking “renewed sectarianism”.
He said “It is unclear what the border arrangements would be in the unprecedented situation of the UK leaving Europe” he said. “Everyone would want to avoid border posts and elaborate checks but who knows what would have to be imposed?”
In Northern Ireland itself, political parties are spilt over whether the country would be better remaining or leave the EU.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister wants the country to remain in the EU, whereas the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Stormont Assembly’s largest party, supports the campaign to leave the EU.
In February, a poll conducted by NatCen Social Research revealed 75% of people in Northern Ireland want the UK to remain in the EU. This is the highest of all UK countries, in Scotland 64% said they wanted to remain, in Wales 55%, with England the lowest at 52%.
Exploring how a potential exit from the EU will impact Ireland is ongoing. Earlier this month the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee began its investigation into how a leave vote and a subsequent UK exist from the EU could impact Northern Ireland.