Northern Ireland news

Pro-Remain unionist MP says Brexit increases border poll likelihood

Lady Sylvia Hermon said Brexit made a border poll more likely

Northern Ireland only pro-Remain unionist MP believes Brexit makes the prospect of a border poll much greater.

Independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon has said she is "worried about the consequences" of the UK's decision to leave the EU.

"In my lifetime I never thought that I would see a border poll and I am now convinced that I probably will see a border poll," she said.

The North Down MP also spoke about criticism from DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who in December claimed she was viewed as being "on the side of the Dublin government" over Brexit.

"I could hear this little voice in my head which I often hear and that is Jack (her late husband Sir Jack Hermon), which he has said to me on other occasions: 'Keep above the battle, keep above the battle'," she said.

"So even though I was really taken aback by what Nigel had accused me of I kept above the battle and continued in the same vein as I had begun – I do not like personal attacks. I try to avoid personal attacks on other people. Brexit is very divisive."

Lady Hermon told BBC's The View that Arlene Foster had endured "appalling criticism" and abuse on social media.

"For Arlene to have taken the personal criticism that was directed to her and to keep going and keep going I have to say hats off to her for doing that," she said.

But the independent unionist said the DUP now needed "to do more" to ensure there was a restoration of devolution.

"We need the assembly up and running this side of the summer – no more shilly-shallying, no more excuses," she said.

"Let's get the assembly up and running and serve the people of Northern Ireland."

Asked whether she would contest the North Down seat at the next general election and defend a narrowed majority of 1,200 votes, Lady Hermon was non-committal.

"Believe it or not when it comes to each election I make my mind up almost on the eve of the election," she said.

"Last year on Easter Tuesday when I had my bag packed and, of course, the House of Commons was going back after the Easter recess, I had a text message from my lovely office manager to tell me that the prime minister had just announced a general election and I thought it was a joke."

She appeared unconcerned that the DUP was targeting her seat.

"They've always wanted to win North Down – of course, they've always wanted to win North Down, but they haven't won it yet," she said.

"Of course it's not inevitable that the DUP will take it, absolutely not – Brexit has and will change everything."

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