David Cameron’s appeal for farmers to reject ‘brexit’ has been labelled a ‘fear-spreading’ exercise by TUV leader, Jim Allister.
The North Antrim MLA, a prominent Euro-exit campaigner, claimed the Prime Minister’s widely publicised speech to farmers in Ahoghill was full of ‘spin and half truths’.
At the weekend, David Cameron paid a visit to Harold Johnston’s dairy farm, near Ahoghill when he hinted strongly that agriculture had much to gain from the EU reform package.
Even more pertinently, he invited farmers to weigh up the consequences of a British exit from Europe with ‘no promises’ that agricultural subsidies could be maintained at present levels in years to come.
He told his audience: “Staying in the EU gives our farmers direct and free access to a market made up of five million consumers. It also guarantees farming in Northern Ireland continuing access to all of the CAP support measures, which the industry currently avails of.
“In contrast, those supporting the principle of the UK leaving the EU can offer no guarantees whatsoever. And this includes the state of the trading relationships that will exist between the UK and Europe, should Britain vote to leave Europe. Yes, the UK government recognises the value of farming to the economy as a whole. But if Britain votes to leave the EU, all I can confirm is that the current EU support measures for agriculture will remain in place for two more years.“But I cannot guarantee that the UK government will continue to support farming to such an extent beyond this date. And no one can.”
The Prime Minister said that continuing membership of the EU would help deliver real safety, prosperity and strength for the United Kingdom as a whole. Specifically, where agriculture is concerned, he saw tremendous merit in the EU negotiating trade deals with the likes of India and China.
While acknowledging that Northern Ireland’s milk sector is under tremendous pressure at the present time, he expressed the view that agriculture, as a whole, can look forward to a bright future.
“Dairy farmers are in business for the long term. International demand for food is set to grow significantly,” he said.
“UK trade missions are currently seeking out new market opportunities for our farming and food sectors. And I am confident that farmers in Northern Ireland will play their part in helping to feed the world.”
Cameron made it clear that those supporting a Brexit must come out and clearly articulate their arguments. But, as far as he was concerned, coming out of Europe was “a step in the dark.”
Meanwhile North Antrim MLA Jim Allister said the Prime Minister had brought “Project Fear’ to Northern Ireland.
He said: “Clearly alarmed that the people of Ulster have seen through his puny deal and may join our fellow citizens in our nation in retaking control of its own borders, destiny and laws, by leaving the disastrous EU, the PM is in a spin peddling half-truths wherever he goes.
“Take his claim that 60% of Northern Ireland’s exports go to the EU. It’s only half the story which conveniently ignores the fact that £8.3b of our annual ‘exports’ go to GB. The figures are indisputable: £8.3b to GB, £3.6b to EU and £2.4b to the rest of the world.
“It is only by excluding our major trade destiny, namely to the rest of the UK, that Europhiles can come up with the artificial and deceptive claim that 60% of our exports go to the EU.”