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Brexit the beginning of the end for UK, warns UUP chief Nesbitt

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt speaking last month at the launch of the party’s Our Vision For You,
The Voter, document
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt speaking last month at the launch of the party’s Our Vision For You, The Voter, document

By Noel McAdam

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has warned that leaving the European Union could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

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Writing in the Belfast Telegraph today, he asked how any unionist could support quitting the EU if it threatens the future of the Union.

He sounded the alarm bells after the UUP executive dramatically decided to campaign for Northern Ireland to remain within the EU.

Further Reading

Mike Nesbitt: EU Poll critical to Northern Ireland's security and prosperity 

Their move splits unionism over the June 23 referendum, with both the DUP and Jim Allister's TUV strongly backing an exit.

The UUP now joins Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance as one of the major Stormont parties backing a retention of the EU connection.

But UUP leader Mike Nesbitt insisted his 'stay in' stance was backed by 99% at a meeting of the party executive attended by 100 members, with "only one dissenting voice".

The motion agreed following a three hour debate was: "The UUP believes that on balance Northern Ireland is better remaining in the European Union, with the UK Government pressing for further reform and a return to the founding principle of free trade, not greater political union".

But it also added: "The party respects that individual members may vote for withdrawal on the 23rd of June."

In today's article, he added that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon "has already made clear her intention to force a second referendum on Scottish independence and I know of very few who believe the UK can withstand a second such challenge if the SNP are gifted such an opportunity through Brexit".

And he warned: "My question is simple: how can a unionist support Brexit when it clearly poses an existential threat to the future of the union they believe in?"

Meanwhile, the leader of one of the UK's biggest business groups has resigned after expressing his support for Brexit.

John Longworth (left) quit as the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) following controversy over his suggestion the UK could have a "brighter" future outside the EU.

Downing Street strenuously denied claims it put pressure on the BCC to act following Mr Longworth's comments at the group's annual conference on Thursday.

But Ukip MP Douglas Carswell responded to the announcement by tweeting: "Well done Downing Street. You got your man."

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