As the Prime Minister scrambles to keep the UK whole amid threats of a second Scottish Independence referendum, ministers have confirmed they will honour the Good Friday agreement – which allows the country to join the Republic of Ireland if polling shows there is public support.
Northern Ireland would then be able to remain within the bloc without applying for membership, following on from Eastern Germany when it united with Western Germany in 1990 and automatically became part of the European Community.
While Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU with 56 per cent of the referendum vote, pre-Brexit polling showed little support in the country for a reunified Ireland.
Government insiders are concerned a hard Brexit could lead to reunification
But Government insiders are concerned a hard Brexit which damages the interlinked economies of the two Irish nations could see support for reunification surge.
In a letter from David Davis to SDLP MP Mark Durkan, the Brexit secretary revealed the Government would stand by the reunification rules in the good Friday agreement.
He wrote: “If a majority of the people of Northern Ireland were ever to vote to become part of a united Ireland the UK government will honour its commitment to enable that to happen.
“In that event, Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state.”
Brexit: Results of how the UK voted Mon, March 20, 2017
Much of the North East of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union including Sunderland, Gateshead, Darlington, Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside, and Northumberland
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GREAT YARMOUTH: The town of Great Yarmouth on the East Coast of England voted by 72% to leave the European Union.
Northern Ireland would be able to remain within the bloc without applying for membership
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The Minister for exiting the EU’s statement is the first time the British Government has laid out its position on how Brexit would impact the reunification process.
The position would mean Northern Ireland would adopt the Euro – but by combining with a member state would not have to go through the same application process an independent Scotland would face.
Mr Davis wrote the Government retains its policy of support for “Northern Ireland’s current constitutional status”.
He added: “We are committed to the principle of consent enshrined in the Belfast agreement which makes clear that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland to determine.”
Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU with 56 per cent of the referendum vote
It comes as Sturgeon pushes for Scotland to split from the UK
Meanwhile south of the border, the Republic’s Labour and Fianna Fail parties have claimed it is time to prepare for a united Ireland.
The letter’s recipient Mr Durkan said the Govnerment had “avoided” making their position clear until this point despite the MP’s requests for clarification.
He added: “There must be no misunderstandings about this. While the government has acknowledged the special status of Northern Ireland, the UK now needs to join the Republic in calling for this to be made clear in any final Brexit agreement.”