Actor Liam Neeson warned that Britain leaving the European Union would have a dire impact on his native Northern Ireland in a statement released to AFP on Wednesday.
“A UK exit would have the worst ramifications for the island of Ireland,” said Neeson, known for his roles in films from “Schindler’s List” to the “Taken” series.
“Economically, this would be a backwards step.”
A vote for a so-called Brexit would bring Northern Ireland out of the EU along with the rest of the United Kingdom, while independent Ireland would remain a member.
The border between the two would then become Britain’s only land border with the world’s biggest trading bloc, something Irish prime minister Enda Kenny has said would cause “extra costs to governments, to business, to consumers”.
Neeson warned Brexit could reverse progress made by a peace process to end decades of violence known as the Troubles, which pitted mostly Protestant pro-British unionists against largely Catholic nationalists in favour of a united Ireland.
“Border controls would be implemented to allegedly stop illegal immigrants coming into the UK through the back door. Trade will be enormously impacted,” he said.
“It would be truly a shame to sacrifice all the progress that has been made by the peace process regarding border controls.”
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has become near-invisible under common membership of the EU single market, and since a 1998 peace deal brought an end to the Troubles.
During the worst years of the conflict, locals had to travel through military checkpoints to reach jobs or visit family on the other side of the border.
Neeson, 64, a native of Ballymena who began his acting career in Belfast, declared his support for the “Irish4Europe” campaign to encourage Irish people living in Britain to vote in favour of EU membership.
“There is strength in unity. A BREXIT vote will make us weak,” Neeson wrote. “I urge you to go out and vote to remain in the EU.”