Gregory Campbell last night dismissed as “scaremongering” claims by two former Prime Ministers that a no-deal Brexit would endanger peace.
The DUP East Londonderry MP said Tony Blair and Sir John Major were “playing on the fears” of people who live near the border, and urged both to “dial down the rhetoric”.
Mr Campbell’s comments came after former premier Mr Blair claimed that a no-deal Brexit could be “devastating” for the peace process, while Sir John revealed that he feared a return to violence in such a scenario.
Mr Blair, whose Labour Government was in office when the Belfast Agreement was signed, told Sky News that if the UK left the EU without a withdrawal agreement it would inevitably lead to a “really hard border” on the island of Ireland and cause a huge split within the UK.
“No one could responsibly propose (a no-deal Brexit),” Mr Blair said.
“It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain, and for the peace process in Ireland it would potentially be devastating.
“You would have a hard border, a very hard border.
“A no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between north and south in Ireland, it’s contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.”
The former Labour leader – a vocal advocate of the UK remaining in the EU – said he believed a second Brexit referendum might happen “when people see what the true Brexit alternatives are”.
In Saturday’s Times newspaper, former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John echoed Mr Blair’s concerns for the peace process.
He said: “I remember people dying. I saw images of what happened after those bombings that I hope never to see again.
“If we end up with a hard border in Northern Ireland it would be a betrayal of the 3,500 people who were killed and those who may well be killed if further violence were to start.”
But last night Mr Campbell hit out at the “extreme language” from the two statesmen.
He said: “Two former Prime Ministers should be more responsible in their language.
“This talk of violence and hard borders is careless in the extreme.
“They are playing on the fears of genuine people who live on the border.”
Mr Campbell said that London, Dublin and Brussels have all committed to avoid a hard border in any circumstances, saying that this was a time for cool heads.
“It looks to me that Blair and Major should dial down the rhetoric and stop talking a lot of hot air.
“This is a time for cool heads and solutions, rather than scaremongering.
“We want to get a deal and if the political will is there, I believe we can.”
The senior DUP MP said that the two former Prime Ministers had previously made “similar disgraceful comments” at the time of the European Union referendum.
“And the two-and-a-half years since has proven their scaremongering to be completely inaccurate,” he added.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann also hit out at the former Prime Ministers’ comments.
“Everyone – particularly those in positions of influence and authority – needs to be very careful in their choice and tone of language,” Mr Swann said.
“The type of people who are prepared to resort to violence will be only too willing to seize on any comments they can, and to try and twist them in order to give cover and some kind of spurious justification for terrorist activity.”
Meanwhile, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “stand up to the Brits” on a border poll, and urged the Irish Government to now establish a forum to facilitate discussion on a united Ireland.
Delivering the annual Pat Finucane lecture in Belfast, the Louth TD said the Irish Government should “learn from the lessons of history” and recognise that the UK Government “does not have friends”.
He said: “It has interests, and it always only acts in its own interests.”