Stewart Dickson MLA said: “If the UK were to leave the European Union, there would be dire consequences for our economy, which is heavily interdependent with our nearest neighbour. Continued speculation over such vital matters is damaging in itself, as it would make international companies, seeking to locate in NI due to its access to the EU market, wary of investing with the possibility of the UK leaving within the next two years. Companies such as Nissan, which employs thousands in Sunderland, have already indicated they would have to consider relocating their Europe manufacturing plant if the UK left the EU.
“Northern Ireland as a region is a massive net beneficiary from the EU, receiving hundreds of millions of pounds through CAP, PEACE, INTERREG and Rural Development programmes. If we were to leave we could no longer avail of this money which has been vital to our post Troubles social and economic development.
“As the only part of the UK with a land border with another EU member, Northern Ireland could lose a greater number of jobs with companies easily moving across the border if we were to leave the EU. Furthermore, the Common Travel Area could become unworkable in the era of EU free movement, meaning that border and passport controls could have to be set up on the EU border with the Republic of Ireland. This would have a disastrous effect on our economy and the lives of people living in the border areas.
“Unionist parties have tended to be quite Eurosceptic, but they must ask their supporters that live in rural areas, or are involved in agriculture directly, whether they could survive economically without the support afforded through the Common Agricultural Policy and the Rural Development Programme.
“This is not to say that the European institutions are perfect. Most people agree that we need to reform the EU, but we would be better placed to achieve this by remaining a full and active member. If we leave, and seek a free treaty arrangement with Europe, we will ultimately have to follow the exact same rules as we do currently, but without any say in their creation.”