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I voted Leave on basis of false Brexit information, says Catholic farmer

Charlie Weir
Charlie Weir
Charlie Weir, who appeared in a DUP broadcast in 2017, last week said he fears that agriculture in Northern Ireland will be "decimated" if the UK leaves the EU without a deal
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A Co Down farmer who appeared in a DUP election broadcast backing Brexit - but who now believes voting Leave was a mistake - has been backed by a Catholic counterpart.

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Charlie Weir, who appeared in a DUP broadcast in 2017, last week said he fears that agriculture in Northern Ireland will be "decimated" if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Now the Waringstown man has an ally in Banbridge dairy farmer Seamus McAteer, who said he feels he voted to leave on the basis of false information.

"Basically, we were told whenever a country leaves the EU under Article 50 we would revert to a free trade agreements with member states. That's what we voted on," he said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I agree 100% with Charlie. In hindsight, voting to leave was a big mistake."

While the DUP remain totally opposed to any idea of a backstop, Mr Weir last week criticised the DUP for their stance, a U-turn from comments he made in the party's Westminster election campaign two years ago.

"I don't see a big problem with the backstop. In fact, the backstop would have been good and it would have meant the best of both worlds," he said.

Mr McAteer agreed, and said his family have been left disillusioned by the political bickering and are now living in fear of what the future holds.

"My family has invested heavily in dairy farming over a number of years and Charlie is right - if things don't go right over the next few weeks we could be left facing financial ruin," he said.

"I voted to leave, but that's a big regret now. As things progressed I supported Theresa May's deal to leave, but the EU have stood their ground and don't look like changing unless there's something going on in the sidelines that we don't know about.

"Our family farm pays the bills and we're left fearing for the future.

"When I voted to leave, and my family voted the same way, we did without being well informed.

"And what I have watched over the past two years is politicians playing with lives."

Last week Mr Weir said he wants the backstop despite his support for 90% of the DUP's policies.

Mr McAteer understands why.

"The backstop is the only scenario that will give us a fighting chance. You wouldn't think of driving a car without an insurance policy, but without it that's what we'll be doing, and the finance won't be there to keep the car on the road. It's that desperate.

"I have to say I felt sorry for Theresa May. And what we have now with Boris Johnson is someone who neither understands nor cares about what farms like ours will be facing."

But Mr McAteer remains confident something can still be done to assist Northern Ireland farmers.

"I have to keep believing that," he said. "I don't care if it's called the backstop, or something else. I don't care how the DUP try to dress it up, but we need that insurance policy or farms across Northern Ireland will be facing financial meltdown."

The DUP said the party remains opposed to any idea that will create a barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"The DUP does not want to see the UK leave the European Union without a deal, but continues to work towards an agreement allowing a sensible and managed exit," a spokesperson said.

"The backstop seeks to facilitate north-south trade, but does so by creating barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain where we sell and trade three-quarters of all our goods."

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