Northern Ireland

Lord Lawson jokes Republic of Ireland 'may ask to rejoin UK'

Lord Lawson Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Lawson served as chancellor from 1983 to 1989, under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

A former British government minister has joked that the Republic of Ireland could ask to rejoin the UK during a debate on the UK's EU membership.

Lord Lawson said it "would be great" if the Republic of Ireland said it had "made a mistake" in getting independence from Britain in 1922.

He is campaigning for the UK to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum.

He made the joke while answering a question on the effect of a British EU exit (Brexit) on the Irish border.

Lord Lawson served as chancellor from 1983 to 1989, under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He is now chairman of the Vote Leave campaign group.

'Special relationship'

During a referendum debate at the foreign affairs think tank, Chatham House, Lord Lawson was asked about the security implications along the Irish border if the UK leaves the EU.

He said the UK had a "special relationship with the Irish Republic, for obvious historical reasons but also for reasons of sentiment".

He said both states worked together to tackle the threat from terrorism and added he believed that "very close co-operation" would continue after the UK left the EU.

Lord Lawson then joked: "I would be very happy if the Republic of Ireland - I don't think it's going to happen - were to say we made a mistake in getting independence in 1922, and come back within the United Kingdom. That would be great."

'Greater restrictions'

When asked if a UK withdrawal from the EU would result the reinstatement of security checks along the Irish border, he said: "There are checks now because of the terrorist problem.

"That's one of the places where terrorists are checked. I'm not at all sure there needs to be anything further. I don't see why there should be."

However, earlier this week Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness warned the implications of a UK withdrawal from the EU would be "absolutely enormous" for Northern Ireland.

His Sinn Féin party, which is campaigning to stay in the EU, said an exit would "undoubtedly led to a reinforcement of the border and greater restrictions on the movement of people, livestock and goods from one part of this island to the other".

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