John Major argued against Brexit in Derry as he feared the north would be ‘stranded’
The former British Prime Minister referred to a visit to Magee College with his British Labour Party successor in the run up to the United Kingdom-wide referendum to leave the European Union in June 2016.
At a briefing of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the Conservative Party grandee was asked by Alliance MP Stephen Farry about the visit six-and-a-half years ago.
“You and Tony Blair famously came to Derry-Londonderry in the run-up to the Brexit referendum and expressed concerns about the potential implications of the vote on a society such as Northern Ireland, which really works through sharing and interdependence.
"Was he disappointed at that time that his successors did not pay enough attention to the implications of Brexit for the complexities of Northern Ireland? Are there lessons to be learned from that?” asked Mr. Farry.
Mr. Major told the committee that he had been concerned about the implications of Brexit for the border in Ireland.
“When Tony Blair and I went to Derry in, I think, 2016, we were concerned about what leaving the European Union would do to life in Northern Ireland, because it would be stranded.
"Northern Ireland would suddenly become the border with the European Union, with a lot of North-South trading and suddenly a trading border right down the middle.
"I was aware that the original Troubles way back in the 1960s actually began at a customs border [sic], if Dr. Farry recalls. Therefore, I was immensely sensitive from the point of view of Northern Ireland about what leaving the European Union would do in changing the relationship.
"Dr. Farry may regard it as slightly surprising that Mr. Blair and I should go on this and say the same things at the same meeting, but it is not really surprising. As Dr. Farry knows well as a politician, the public divisions between political parties are often a good deal less when talking privately,” he said.