Former US president Bill Clinton warns that among the many downsides to Britain leaving the EU is that it would do immense harm to Northern Ireland.
Speaking at an Irish-American event in New York, he voiced serious concerns about the potential impact of the referendum on peace in Northern Ireland.
His comments come after caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny warned that Britain leaving the EU could lead to a recommencing of the Troubles.
Mr. Clinton was in the White House at the time the 1998 Good Friday agreement was signed and was one of its chief architects, receiving a lifetime achievement award for his efforts.
He said he hopes the UK doesn’t fall victim to the idea that things would be better, and easier, outside of the EU.
“It’s Northern Ireland that will really get whacked if Britain withdrew from the European Union,” he explained.
“And I hope they don’t because it’s too easy to believe that the only solution to problems in the world is to hunker down.”
Mr. Kenny has previously expressed his desire for Britain to remain in the EU, citing it as economically advantageous for Ireland. He also noted that the Union was an “important, perhaps underestimated, enabler of peace in Northern Ireland.
“It was instrumental in facilitating constructive contact and building trust between our governments to find a political settlement,” he said.
“All-island cooperation is so much easier between two members of the European Union.”
Mr. Clinton also urged Americans to encourage Irish politicians to “find their way through a splintered electorate” to form a government.
He told them to remind the Irish people that “what made them great was the way of coming together, of learning from what happened 100 years ago and for almost 300 years before that.”
He added: “If you’re Irish, yeah it’s okay to be concerned that you don’t have a government today but they’ll figure it out.”
Speaking at Irish America Magazine’s Hall of Fame Awards, the former American president said he hoped today’s politicians could learn from 1916 and 1998.
He highlighted the dangers of parties failing to find agreement and political extremes rising to the fray, quoting W.B. Yeats’ “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”.
He noted how the Belfast Agreement showed how opponents could find “a way forward for inclusive prosperity, for inclusive politics.”
Mr. Clinton challenged today’s world leaders to adopt a similar tactic and become “torch bearers of hope”.