Bearder calls on Theresa Villiers to quit if she backs Brexit

Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder has said that Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers should resign if she wants to campaign for Britain to leave the EU. She joined Northern Irish politicians who argued that the effect of leaving the EU would be acutely felt in Northern Ireland and the peace process could be at risk.

Catherine said:

Given the disastrous impact Brexit could have on the Northern Ireland peace process, it would be highly inappropriate for Theresa Villiers to remain in her post while campaigning to leave the EU.

Leaving Europe would risk stoking sectarian tensions and undoing years of peacebuilding, much of it funded through EU peace programmes. It would also fundamentally transform the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland and put at risk the open land border we currently share.

David Cameron must stop putting the interests of his party ahead of those of the country. Government ministers should not be able to campaign for an EU exit if this completely goes against their role and responsibilities.

My worry about this kind of thing is that it takes too much out of the Better Together playbook. I’m not sure that the Stronger In campaign has yet understood that in Scotland Better Together lost the campaign. What’s happened in Scottish politics since should be a massive lesson. The pro EU campaign needs a much bigger margin of victory than the current polls seem to suggest that they will get.

While there is definitely a case for pointing out the benefits that the EU gives us and how we would be harmed if we left, there needs to be some element of appeal to more positive emotions as well. Those values of international co-operation, working together to promote the values we believe in and just talking about the fact that the EU, for all its flaws, has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. If it hadn’t been for the EU, we wouldn’t have a lot of the workers’ rights and gender equality laws that we take for granted. I don’t think that the Stronger In campaign has yet got that balance right. Its biggest problem is that its probable leader has just been on Marr being at most lukewarm in his enthusiasm for his proposition.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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16 Comments

  • Richard Sangster 10th Jan '16 - 4:31pm

    Neither would Brexit do the Irish Republic any favours.

  • We could equally say that the EU wide sexiual abuse by migrant gangs might erupt in the UK if free movement isn’t curtailed. You could make a claim just about anything, its called scaremongering, the basis of all LibDem arguments for staying in the EU.

    Do you not have a positive single evidential argument for staying? There must be something after 40 years.

  • Richard Sangster 11th Jan '16 - 8:45am

    The Troubles started before either the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland were members of the EEC/EC/EU.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Jan '16 - 9:42am

    Off the top off my head, peace in Europe for over 50 years, the biggest single market in the world into which the UK sells a major part of its exports, tariff and restriction free, freedom for all citizens of the EU – including several million Brits – to live and work anywhere in the EU, common standards for goods and services, mutual health care in all EU countries for all its citizens, consumer rights greatly improved with major gains for consumers, like the positive changes in mobile phone regulations and charges, greater clout in world affairs when we act together, cooperation in the fight against organised crime and drugs, including the EU arrest warrant, which has already returned many wanted criminals to justice in the UK.

    There are many more with thought. The In campaign should be trumpeting the positive, not relying on the negative to convince people.

  • Cornelius Logue 11th Jan '16 - 10:03am

    I live in County Donegal, five miles from the border with Northern Ireland. For those who blithely assert that the Troubles predated the EU and therefore the border was open, it wasn’t. Out of the hundreds of border crossings, only fifteen or so were “Approved” crossings. Protectionist governments in the Republic of Ireland maintained active Customs posts right up to 1992 and the single market. Security was always a concern of the Northern Ireland Government and paramilitary police and UK Customs checked traffic in and out, long before the British Army manned checkpoints here.

    It is a myth that our border was fully open at any time before the final dismantling of the British Army checkpoints after the Republican and Loyalist ceasefires.

    Brexit at best risks the reintroduction of this. It is fair to say that even partial restrictions on the border will not help either part of Ireland, sacrificing a hard one Liberty that we gained from the peace process. The border is invisible and meaningless right now. Whatever marginal jolly some eejit in the south of England harrumphing into his corn flakes about “bloody foreigners” gains is a hammer blow to us.

  • Denis Loretto 11th Jan '16 - 12:09pm

    Cornelius Logue has it right. One of the crucial elements in gaining acceptance from Irish republicans to the retention of Northern Ireland in the UK unless and until its electorate voted otherwise was the “softening” of the Irish border. Indeed it is a local amusement nowadays to guess exactly where the border is! So what about Brexit? Given that one of the main drivers of the sorry decision to leave the EU would be mounting scares about immigration, do you think it would be acceptable to leave the soft Irish border as a wide open invitation to Johnny Foreigner? Bear in mind that all EU citizens would have the untrammelled right to travel to the Irish Republic which will unquestionably remain an EU member. Inevitably the Irish border would have to become a fortified frontier – probably entirely fenced, with everyone checked in and out and with armed guards. Do you think that would be acceptable to Irish republicanism? And if they rekindled their campaign would the Ulster loyalists stand idly by?
    In short Brexit would re-open the entire Irish settlement with a slide back into violence highly likely. For a Secretary of State who has generally shown she has the best interests of the province at heart to campaign on the “Leave” side would be highly reprehensible.

  • Mick Taylor. Peace in Europe? That peace is beginning to unravel. Organised assaults by migrant men, massacres as in Paris, retaliation attacks by the far right and not so far right which will gain support and grow over the EU. Civil wars on the horizon due to inept politicians. People are getting angry.

  • @ Mick Taylor

    As I said.
    ” Do you not have a positive single evidential argument for staying? There must be something after 40 years. ”

    The EU has had nothing to do with maintaining the peace in Europe, it was a combination of Nato/ Warsaw Pact and MAD( Mutually Assured Destruction) that has maintained the peace. In the only major conflict on the European mainland in the post war period, namely the wars in the Balkans, the EU was as effective as a chocolate poker. It was the hard power of the USA and the UK that stopped the killing.

    The UK does not sell the major part of its exports to the EU, it sells a major part of its exports to the Rest of the World. There is no such thing as tariff free trade with the EU, we pay billions to be a member of the so called free trade club, probably more than we would pay in tariffs, and I would imagine any imposed tariffs if we left would be offset by tariffs in return, and since we have a massive balance of payments deficit, we would come out of it cash rich.

    It might have escaped your notice, but we lived and worked in Europe before the EU ever existed.
    We do not get free health care in EU countries, we are only entitled to the level of health care that is given to the residents of that country, and as many countries have a 25% co pay system we have to pay the same. Without private insurance you could be bankrupted if you have a serious illness across much of the EU.

    Co-operation in the fight against organised crime and drugs. Tell that to the innocent women who are the victims of the totally ineffective fight against people trafficking for the sex industry, not forgetting the open borders for drug and criminal syndicates to carry on EU wide with impunity. Tell it to the people of Cologne.

  • Richard Sangster 11th Jan '16 - 7:24pm

    In other words, it may well be that the Irish settlement unravels to a lesser or greater extent, especially if the United Kingdom also leaves the European Economic Area.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jan '16 - 8:48pm

    Denis Loretto 11th Jan ’16 – 12:09pm This is speculation. I recall some illegal entrants being arrested as they got off the boat in Scotland.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jan '16 - 9:00pm

    Cornelius Logue 11th Jan ’16 – 10:03am Thank you. This is useful information, but has the smuggling of diesel stopped? When does the change in the rate of corporation tax take effect?

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jan '16 - 9:08pm

    Raddiy 11th Jan ’16 – 6:36pm Since the founding of the Iron and Steel Community the point was to prevent the increasing escalation and huge expense of dead and wounded in wars between France and Germany. 1870, 1914, 1939. Therefore the combatants were integrated with each other.

  • Denis Loretto 12th Jan '16 - 10:33am

    @jedibeeftrix – “Given that they are not in Schengen, and share a common border regime with us, i’d say it would make zero difference.”

    The Republic not being in Schengen merely means that they do passport checks for entrants. This does not absolve them from the right of all EU residents (yes – with passports) to enter their territory. Once there the current open border to the north would mean easy and unchecked entry to the UK. You think the eurosceptics, high on a charge of having won the referendum, would put up with that?
    Or do you think the UK government would try to institute barriers within the UK i.e. checking entrants to Great Britain from Northern Ireland?

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