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Alex Salmond calls for remain vote in Derry speech

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond in Derry yesterday where he was speaking at an event discussing the upcoming European Referendum PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond does not believe a Brexit vote will result in the return of a “hard border” between the North and Republic.

However, Mr Salmond told business and political leaders in Derry it would have “complex and particular constitutional implications” for Northern Ireland.

Mr Salmond is the third former leader to travel to Derry this week to campaign for a “remain vote” in this month’s EU referendum. Former prime ministers, Tony Blair and John Major both visited the city on Thursday. The former SNP leader addressed a meeting of Derry’s chamber of commerce yesterday afternoon.

The former Scottish first minister told business leaders the EU was critical to securing stability and preventing and healing conflicts across Europe.

Mr Salmond recalled former SDLP leader, John Hume’s description of the EU as the “best example in the history of the world of conflict resolution.” He pointed out that the Northern Ireland Act 1998 – which implemented the Good Friday Agreement – was based on the UK and Ireland as partners in Europe.

“I would not argue that the survival of the Good Friday Agreement depends on EU membership or even less would I suggest that peace would end with Brexit. However, it is true that leaving the EU would have complex and particular constitutional implications in respect of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Salmond said a commitment to European values was a vital part of the peace process.

The former leader said: “I do not share the view that Brexit inevitably results in the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the South. The Common Travel Area has been kicking around since 1923 and already contains the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man territories which are not in the European Union.

“As long as the Republic stays out of Schengen then it should be possible to keep the travel area.”

While the Brexit campaign had made the EU debate about immigration, Mr Salmond said the real population problem was not immigration but emigration.

“If the peace process here has taught us anything, it is the intrinsic value and indeed the power of collaboration and co-operation. I want us to remain in the EU so that we can continue to work together, progressing the interests of our people, embracing solidarity and its social responsibilities in a Europe that supports its citizens, businesses and governments,” Mr Salmond said.

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