Belfast Telegraph

On balance I support membership of EU - Northern Ireland has benefited enormously from European funding

By Mark Brotherston, NI Conservatives

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, says he won’t offer people in the UK and ‘in/out referendum’ on EU membership, if his party wins the next election. 

Instead he outlines a complicated scheme involving a ‘lock’ and a possible referendum, which depends upon further powers being transferred from Westminster to Brussels.

It’s a far cry from David Cameron’s straightforward pledge to hold a vote in 2017, if there is a Conservative government.

The EU can work very well and very badly.  At its best, it allows free trade across one of the world’s most important economic areas.  At its worst it wastes an incredible amount of money, creates unnecessary bureaucracy and interferes in the affairs of member states.

On balance, I support the UK’s membership of the EU.  Northern Ireland has benefited enormously from European funding, since 1989.  Over the next six years the Common Agriculture Policy and the European Regional Development Fund will continue to pump about £3.4 billion into our economy.  It’s an injection which our farmers and our successful food industry would struggle to survive without.

The EU does need urgent reform and it cannot be allowed to develop into something resembling a ‘super state’.  David Cameron has already had to show tough leadership, by successfully insisting that the bloated EU budget was slashed.  The Prime Minister also vetoed plans to give countries in the Eurozone new, wide-ranging powers, which could have damaged the UK’s interests.

For these reasons the Conservative Party leader has said he will negotiate a fresh settlement with the European Union, to make it work better for our people.

In the forthcoming European Parliamentary election I’ll be the only candidate standing in Northern Ireland whose party can deliver a referendum on EU membership.  I’ll also be the only candidate who can fight for our interests as part of the influential Conservative Party group at the European Parliament in Brussels.

I believe in the potential of the European Union and the benefits it brings to our province.  I’m also realistic about its many drawbacks and I believe it’s worth fighting to change those things, in order to shape an EU which works better for the UK, better for Northern Ireland and ultimately better for the EU as well. 

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