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I was wrong to vote Leave says farmer filmed by DUP for election broadcast

Charlie Weir fears for his farm in a no-deal
Charlie Weir fears for his farm in a no-deal
Charlie Weir fears for his farm in a no-deal
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

A farmer who appeared in a DUP election broadcast has said that tens of thousands of jobs are at risk in the agri-food industry in the event of a no deal-Brexit.

Charlie Weir, from Waringstown, Co Down, voted to Leave but said he had made a mistake.

"There is too much at stake for me to remain silent," he said.

"I have young children and I don't want to see what my father, grandfather and great grandfather built go down the pan. There are 100,000 jobs in the agri-food industry here and some of them will be at very real risk if there's a no-deal Brexit.

"I didn't realise the seriousness of the situation when I voted to Leave in 2016 and I believed what was written on that big red bus."

Mr Weir said he supported 90% of DUP policies but the party was wrong to oppose the backstop.

"If milk goes to 18p per litre, farmers just won't survive. If Britain put up tariffs to protect farmers it would be different, but Boris has made clear they will go for a cheap food policy, bringing in produce from Australia and America.

"I don't think there will be a deal but, even if there is, I fear it will be a bad deal. I don't think there's the time for anything else," he added.

He said the DUP appeared to be softening its stance on a no-deal Brexit and that was very welcome.

Speaking in the election broadcast, DUP leader Arlene Foster had said: "Farmers, like Charlie, know the opportunities leaving the European Union will present as well as acknowledging the challenges. Only the DUP can secure the best deal for Northern Ireland as we leave the European Union."

But Mr Weir told the BBC that he now believed agriculture in Northern Ireland would be "decimated" if the UK left the EU without a deal.

He voiced his support for the backstop as "the best of both worlds" and said he "didn't know the full story" when he voted in 2016.

"If I was to vote again, I'd vote to Remain, personally, from an agricultural point of view," he said. "Here in Northern Ireland, for example, we receive £300m in CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) funding from Europe and if farmers weren't getting that money they couldn't survive. Farmers would be at a loss."

Mr Weir said he had listened to the "stories that were told about the big red bus and all the extra money there was going to be for the health service and I thought that we could probably get a better deal".

Of the controversial backstop which all unionist parties oppose, he said: "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. You'd have countries wanting to invest in Northern Ireland so that they would have traded with Europe and the UK. It would have brought a lot of inward investment and would have made Northern Ireland a very rich and wealthy country."

He added: "The DUP are completely against the backstop. I, on the other hand, don't believe the backstop would have any effect on the Union because... if there's going to be any change to the Union there has to be a vote."

A DUP spokesman said the party is working "towards an agreement allowing a sensible and managed exit".

"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. The backstop has been rejected on three occasions by Parliament and a new agreement is needed which can command support from both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland."

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