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McGuinness a Europhile chancer, claims Sammy Wilson

By Allan Preston

Published 03/02/2016

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson

The DUP has rubbished claims by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that leaving the EU would be a disaster for the UK economy.

Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim and a former Stormont Finance Minister, said Mr McGuinness was "the last person anyone should seek advice from about the economic implications of the UK leaving the EU".

He described the Sinn Fein veteran as a "Europhile chancer." Mr McGuinness had warned that opting out of the European Union would lose Northern Ireland millions in revenue streams, with farmers being hit the hardest.

"The financial implications are absolutely massive for us," said Mr McGuinness.

"We have received significant support from the EU through a number of different funding programmes, which, in the event of a Brexit, we would no longer have access to."

Mr McGuinness pointed to structural and regional development funds worth £742 million between 2014-20. These included the European regional development fund, the European social fund, INTERREG and the Peace IV programme.

He added that farmers would lose access to funding under the common agricultural policy, which he claimed was worth around £1.9bn in the 2014-2020 period. "That represents a massive investment in the sector," he said.

In response, Mr Wilson said that Mr McGuinness' claim was untrue and that it "rings hollow given that his party's intransigence on welfare reform meant that we returned millions to Westminster in the last year."

He argued that of the £18bn the UK puts towards the EU every year, only half was returned and that much of it was "squandered by the bloated EU bureaucracy".

Mr Wilson was also critical of the EU deciding local spending priorities, adding that "if we fall foul of the Byzantine fiscal rules set by the EU we have to pay millions in fines which has happened frequently".

He said: "Free from the EU we would have more of our taxpayers' money available for us to decide how to spend so we wouldn't be worse off, we would be better off out."

Mr Wilson went on to accuse the SDLP and Sinn Fein of being "scaremongering Europhiles" who targeted farmers.

"There is no question that outside the EU there would still be support for farmers," he insisted. There was before we joined, there will be after we leave, indeed there will be more money to use for support and it can be tailored to suit circumstances."

He argued that in the EU, farmers were more likely to suffer as the Commission would give greater priority to new member states. He concluded: "Clearly the referendum is a massive decision. It is one about which there should be a reasoned debate, not ill informed comments by Europhile chancers like Martin McGuinness."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed news that progress has been made on the Prime Minister's renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU.

Mr Nicholson said: ""The European question will be a major decision not just for the UK as a whole, but for Northern Ireland in particular. "

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