Naomi Long MP said: “I believe that the holding of an in/out referendum on EU membership at this time would be a very retrograde step and would oppose any such move.
“The timing of this debate is extremely poor and quite cynical. The Eurozone is facing many serious challenges economically and, whether the UK remains in the EU or leaves it will not alter the fact that these challenges impact on us directly, as the EU is our most significant export and import market. Our efforts should, therefore, be focussed on trying to resolve these issues to protect the UK national interest, rather than debating a motion which, if passed and acted upon, would create further instability in our economy.
“This debate is reminiscent of those of the 1980’s, when the Conservative Government was under constant internal pressure to withdrawal from the EU. It would appear to be motivated more by a wish to embarrass David Cameron and create cracks in the Coalition Government. Regardless of my own reservations about much of the Government policy, I cannot see how weakening it further on the international stage can be in the country’s best interests.
“The Government has already committed that any further EU treaty changes will have to be approved by referendum so no further constitutional changes or EU integration will happen without the approval of the public. I believe that to be a sensible and measured way of protecting UK interests going forward.
“The AV referendum earlier this year became little more than a popularity poll about the Liberal Democrats and any EU referendum could be similarly distorted, with people’s voting being heavily influenced by their wish to express their dissatisfaction with the current Government rather than the arguments for or against remaining in the EU, withdrawal from which has significant and profound consequences for the UK.
“Northern Ireland has gained financially as a result of being in the EU, moreso than any other region of the UK, and the impact of withdrawal would, therefore, be damaging not only in terms of the loss of that funding but also the message it would send out at a time when we are trying to attract investment and jobs to Northern Ireland from Europe and beyond.”