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Michelle O'Neill warns of Brexit disaster for farmers

By David Young, PA

Published 03/02/2016

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill

A Brexit will spell disaster for Northern Ireland farmers and leave everyone in the region paying more for agri-products, Stormont's agriculture minister has warned.

Michelle O'Neill told the Assembly a potential loss of billions of euro of European farm subsidies if the UK exited the EU was unlikely to be replaced by the Government in London.

However, DUP MLA Gregory Campbell challenged the minister and said talk of "nightmare" scenarios was hindering a rational debate on the issue of whether the UK should stay or go.

Outlining her views on Brexit during Assembly question time, Ms O'Neill said the future outside the EU was an uncertain one, claiming the impact of exit would be "disastrous". Echoing comments by Martin McGuinness, she said in the period 2014-2020 the agriculture and rural sector in Northern Ireland was set to receive €2.53bn (£1.9bn) from Europe.

"We don't know what the future holds, we don't know what a post-Brexit situation looks like. And without any of those certainties it is very difficult for anyone to make a rational choice in terms of going forward, she said.

"I think €2.53bn is significant and speaks volumes in terms of what it means to our economy, what it means to the agri-food sector and what it means to everybody - because if farmers aren't subsidised to produce food then all consumers will be paying more for food, which we will have to import from other countries."

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