Belfast Telegraph

EU ballot is all about democracy

By Eimhear MacFarlane

I'm a Catholic. I'm also pro-Union and as such I suppose I am the subject of Malachi O'Doherty's piece yesterday in which he anticipated a sectarian element to the forthcoming referendum on our EU membership.

He argues, somewhat bizarrely, that the small 'u' unionism that I happen to share with about a third of my co-religionists might waiver in a UK outside the European Union. It will not. If anything, a wholly sovereign UK is a far more attractive proposition that the current state of affairs.

If people from nationalist backgrounds are swayed towards staying in the Union despite 65% of our laws being made in Brussels by unelected bureaucrats then a United Kingdom where the laws are made solely by the politicians that we ourselves send to Westminster should be even more attractive. It would mean more power for Margaret Ritchie and even more power for Paul Maskey if he ever bothered to turn up. This isn't about religion. It's about democracy.

I find the fact that the EU dictates the power usage of Hoovers as ridiculous as any Protestant would. To borrow a much-maligned phrase, we are all in this together. The machinations of the European Commission affect us all - it supresses our freedoms and costs us all money.

The effects on our freedom of movement within Ireland would be few. While Malachi bemoans the Customs posts of his youth, the European Union currently maintains 53 free trade agreements with non-EU countries. It would be entirely nonsensical to conclude that such an agreement would not be reached with the UK ensuring the elimination of tariffs and therefore removing the need for Customs posts along the border. Differing levels of regulation would allow a more competitive island of Ireland however, increasing prosperity for those who call this place home.

We will be launching the Better Off Out campaign in Northern Ireland on September 12. Everyone is welcome to get involved in having a proper political debate that we've never had in Northern Ireland. And it really doesn't matter where you go on a Sunday.

  • Eimhear Macfarlane is deputy chair Political NI Conservative Future; NUS officer Conservative Future, Social Media & Marketing Conservatives for Liberty NI

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