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Future will be bright if we stay in Europe, claims comic Eddie Izzard

Izzard and Wilson to hold EU debate at Belfast's Whitla Hall tomorrow

By John Mulgrew

Comedian Eddie Izzard says Northern Ireland will have a "bright future rather than heading back to the past" by voting to remain part of the EU.

And the Bangor-raised man, who spent his childhood between 1964 and 1967 living at Ashford Drive, said a Brexit is "almost synonymous with recession", warning a potential return to borders and trade barriers would hit the economy here.

He's currently embarking on a 31-day Stand up for Europe tour, campaigning for the UK to remain part of the EU.

And he's going up against DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, during their head-to-head debate at Belfast's Whitla Hall on Thursday evening.

"I think particularly in Northern Ireland it's important there's a Remain vote. You are the highest exporter into the EU, from the UK," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "Above all, Northern Ireland is a net receiver, and £100m is what our side is claiming... getting rid of that seems crazy.

"It's good for the farming industry and who knows what border controls may come into force.

"I don't think Northern Irish people want to go back to that.

"I kept coming back during the Troubles.

"I always played the gigs in Belfast and in Londonderry. I've always been positive about Northern Ireland.

"Do you want to go back to that (borders)? I knew it when there weren't border controls, I saw it when there were border controls, and I love it now there aren't any."

He said that on "gut instinct" and "pure logic," a leave vote would result in putting up borders and would make trade more difficult with the EU.

Asked about his opponent, Sammy Wilson, he said: "I don't want to come in and get in to slagging matches. As a transgender guy, I don't think I can go 'this guy, I've got a problem with him'.

"If I disagree with him, I disagree with him on having a negative. If we are doing OK, or Northern Ireland is doing OK, let's be positive about it."

And speaking about Mr Izzard, Mr Wilson said he wasn't familiar with the well-known comic.

"I've never heard of him. He might say the same thing as well, so we are even," he said.

"I think any debate has to be relevant to who you are talking to... I hope it doesn't become some kind of comedy show."

He said he was trying to get across several main messages, including that "young people are sufficiently astute to recognise when they are being sold a pup by the Remain crowd" which he said was "bankrupt of ideas".

"Secondly, I'm not going to engage them in the stats, whether it's good or bad for the economy. Both sides have made some claims."

And from a business perspective, he said young entrepreneurs and innovators of the future would benefit from not being in the EU.

Belfast Telegraph

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