EU referendem: Brexit will endanger wildlife, claims Boris' father
The Government would not necessarily protect the countryside and wildlife in the event of a Brexit, Boris Johnson's father has claimed.
Stanley Johnson told the Belfast Telegraph that just 18 beaches across the UK were clean enough for bathing in the 1970s, and it was only strong action from the EU that brought this number up to more than 600.
Speaking on behalf of Environmentalists for Europe, Mr Johnson said many parts of Northern Ireland, including the north Antrim Coast, the Fairy Water Bogs and Hollymount, have been protected as a result of the EU's help.
He also warned that some environmental problems could not be tackled by the UK on its own because the issues crossed national boundaries.
"The birds don't queue at the border waiting for passports to be checked," Mr Johnson said.
"Neither, by the way, do the sorts of global businesses that try to avoid environmental standards and would be only too glad for individual nations to squabble between themselves."
In an exclusive opinion piece for this newspaper, Mr Johnson told how his career as an environmental campaigner and Conservative MEP had led him to see the value in an institution such as the EU.
"You may have read my son's views in recent months - he's been quite forthright with them," he wrote. "But for all the love and respect I have for Boris, my view is different. I think it's crucial we vote to remain.
"The environment is my great passion in life. When nature is protected, we are all better off."
Mr Johnson said it was thanks to an EU programme that Red Squirrels United had been set up to reverse the decline of native squirrels, and that the River Faughan had been designated as a Special Area of Conservation for Atlantic salmon because of pressure from the European Commission.
He added that the UK Government had done nothing to curb the damage being done by trawling to Strangford Lough's unique horse mussel reefs, which act as habitat for other marine life such as colourful soft corals, anemones, lobsters, oysters and commercially important fish species.
"Europe stepped in and threatened infraction proceedings to force the UK Government to enforce the protections," Mr Johnson wrote. "The temporary ban that followed has now become permanent.
"It's easy to say that the UK Government would protect our countryside and wildlife even if we left the EU, but the facts don't bear that out. Sometimes, Westminster politicians make decisions for the short-term, and that doesn't work for nature.
"That's why, rather than turning away, we should be making the EU work for us."