| 3.7°C Belfast

'Ukip offers a new kind of unionism,' claims Ukip's Farage


Nigel Farage during a previous visit to Belfast. The Ukip leader says his party offers a new kind of unionism to Northern Ireland

Nigel Farage during a previous visit to Belfast. The Ukip leader says his party offers a new kind of unionism to Northern Ireland

Nigel Farage during a previous visit to Belfast. The Ukip leader says his party offers a new kind of unionism to Northern Ireland

As I visit Belfast for the next stop on my nationwide Say No to EU tour, it is certainly an interesting time in politics for both the United Kingdom as a whole and Northern Ireland in particular.

As someone who believes passionately in the United Kingdom, I thought it important that I visit Northern Ireland and I'm glad to be here. I will also be visiting Scotland and Wales on the tour, as well as holding meetings the length and breadth of England.

We currently have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. A referendum on the UK's membership of the EU has been promised by the end of 2017, though I suspect it may come as early as March of next year.

This is a referendum brought about by Ukip's campaigning over decades. We have made the arguments again and again as to why leaving would give our country a brighter future and now we have the chance finally to get out of the EU with this referendum.

For too long now we have allowed Brussels to make the majority of our laws, weakening our Parliament and our democracy.

The cost of the EU has also spiralled up and up, to the point where we have just found out the Government have handed over an extra £1.7bn recently. Brussels asks for more and our weak Government hands taxpayers' money over and that's on top of the £55m per day we already pay to a European Union which hasn't had its accounts signed off in 19 years.

My real fear with the EU as it stands is that not only is open-door immigration flooding the unskilled labour market with cheap labour that pushes down the wages of British workers, but that a very real security threat exists. I have warned for many months now that Islamic State's threat that they will use the current chaos in Calais and elsewhere to infiltrate fighters into mainland Europe is one we should take very seriously indeed. We now have had confirmation that French people are searching for at least one known Isis terrorist who is hiding in Calais and intends to come to the UK. Islamic State are now saying they have already had 4,000 fighters enter Europe, intent on causing mayhem.

The point is this: EU open borders, combined with the EU's Common Asylum policy, mean that virtually anyone coming across the Mediterranean can claim asylum and then make their way through Europe. That's what we are seeing now and I think it is a very dangerous state of affairs indeed.

That's why we must vote to leave in this referendum and why it is so very important that those of you in Northern Ireland play your part in helping free the UK from the European Union. Outside, we can make our own laws, spend our own money on what our own Parliament decides on anything from fishing to farming without being dictated to and, crucially, control the level of immigration coming into the country as well.

Only by using this referendum to get the UK out of the EU can we control our borders again. For the sake of the UK's national security, I sincerely hope that we will vote to leave. I'll be doing all I can to ensure that that is the outcome.

Of course, I arrive in Northern Ireland during what is an ever-developing and fragile situation. Whatever emerges from the talks process which is about to begin, one thing is clear. The Assembly - or the next Assembly - needs to be free once and for all from the spectre of terrorists in or near any of the parties of government. The Assembly needs to be set free to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland, to focus on the very real economic and social issues which confront the province.

I am convinced people want devolution but they want a devolution that works for people and which is not continually side-tracked by unresolved issues, emanating from the past conflict, which have distracted the Assembly and its Executive from dealing effectively with its very real day to day responsibilities.

Properly operated, devolution should bring major benefits to Northern Ireland, but Ukip wants to see a fully functioning, responsive, effective and efficient government in Northern Ireland. As a new kind of party, Ukip listens to voters and reflects their real, deeply-seated concerns, which in Northern Ireland include the impact uncontrolled immigration is having on their children's life chances and job opportunities, on their own access to GPs and the health service.

Ukip offers Northern Ireland voters a new kind of unionism, bringing Northern Ireland into the mainstream of modern British life while giving people local solutions to problems. We are here to stay here in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph