We might lose a border poll, says senior Tory

Simon Hoare MP
Simon Hoare MP
Share this article

A senior Conservative backbench MP who chairs the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has told the Commons that he believes a border poll after a no-deal Brexit may lead to a united Ireland.

Simon Hoare, who last month was elected to chair the committee which scrutinises the government’s work in Northern Ireland, told MPs the wrong outcome to Brexit may undermine the Union.

DUP MPs immediately denounced the Welsh Tory MP’s remarks as inacurrate and detrimental to the Union, potentially making a border poll more likely because the grounds for calling such a referendum are a belief that it could be lost by unionists.

Speaking during a debate about Northern Ireland legislation last night, Mr Hoare clashed with several DUP MPs as he set out his firm opposition to leaving the EU without a deal – something which the DUP says is not its preference but that the UK should be prepared to accept in order to ensure Brexit happens.

Mr Hoare said: “We will play with fire if a policy is pursued which adds an accelerant to a demand for a border poll because I have to say, and it saddens me to say it, I am not convinced that we as unionists would win that poll...I am also certain that even if we were to prevail and that precious Union was to be maintained it would open yet again, and one could not refuse, the request for a second independence referendum in Scotland and it is worrying. I say this as somebody who is saddened to say it – I do not want to wake up and find myself a subject of the United Kingdom of England and Wales.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said that Mr Hoare’s comment was “exactly the sort of language that Sinn Féin want to hear because of course the trigger for a border poll in the Belfast Agreement is a belief that there is a change in the views of the people of Northern Ireland”.

Mr Hoare responded to DUP claims that they would win a border poll by saying that “it’s rather risky, I would suggest, to risk something as precious as our Union to that thing called a border poll”.

He clarified that he was not speaking “to give succour” to those hoping for a border poll.