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Brexit 'could bring bigger subsidies for struggling farmers'

By John Mulgrew

Published 18/05/2016

TUV leader Jim Allister at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign’s 28-page Brexit document yesterday
TUV leader Jim Allister at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign’s 28-page Brexit document yesterday

A vote to quit the EU would allow Stormont to increase the amount of money paid to farmers in subsidies, Brexit campaigners have claimed.

A 28-page document launched by the Leave.EU campaign yesterday claimed that Northern Ireland paid £67m more into the union than it got out.

If the public voted to leave, some of that money could go towards increasing the support given to farmers, it was claimed.

Among those attending the launch was DUP MP Ian Paisley, who said he was hugely disappointed with "a lack of leadership" among the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), which has yet to declare a position on Brexit.

Mr Paisley also claimed the vast majority of farmers were in favour of leaving.

However, in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph last month, UFU chief Barclay Bell said Northern Ireland had "too much to lose" to consider quitting.

But Mr Paisley shot back: "Farmers who have been relying on Europe to subsidise them are going to get less and less. Agri-food is key to us - it's growing in Northern Ireland.

"We need to get to other markets. We have to ensure we have a Northern Ireland or UK-focused subsidy."

He also dismissed claims that a Brexit could lead to the return of controls along the border with the Republic of Ireland as "utterly scurrilous scaremongering".

Leave.EU spokesman Brian Monteith said quitting the union would allow Northern Ireland to look after farm support.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has, in past two years, received £635m of EU money, most of it under the Single Farm Payment system. Leave supporters claimed that under an independent farm subsidy arrangement, that figure could be increased.

The Leave.EU campaign also insisted that Northern Ireland would be best off backing Brexit because it would allow the UK to trade with other markets and "regain control over its security".

"This document goes in to the detail, and puts it (the case to leave) into a rational and cogent manner," Mr Monteith said.

Like Mr Paisley, the pamphlet dismisses claims that border controls could be reintroduced, saying that "custom barriers and time-consuming controls will not be necessary".

The only business leader present, Irwin Armstrong, chief executive of CIGA Healthcare, said that because red tape had restricted him when selling into EU countries, he had decided to expand elsewhere.

He also told how he found it much easier to trade products with major US retailers, including Walgreens, than their counterparts in the EU.

And while he admitted voting to join the European Economic Community in 1975, he said "we were not told that we would have a United States of Europe".

Mr Monteith also insisted he was not worried by the lack of business chiefs in attendance.

Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister said there had been an "avalanche of disingenuous propaganda" from stay campaigners.

And Jeff Peel, who is leading the Business for Britain campaign in Northern Ireland, claimed the "majority of small businesses don't see the logic" in remaining part of the EU.

Belfast Telegraph

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