European regulations on Northern Ireland farmers will not disappear if the UK leaves the EU, Stormont’s Agriculture Minister has insisted.
Michelle O’Neill said those who argued that Brexit would halt the reach of Brussels red tape were “delusional”.
Ms O’Neill made the remarks as she faced Assembly questions from a number of Eurosceptic MLAs on the bureaucracy experienced by the Province’s farmers.
The Sinn Fein representative was also challenged on the multimillion-euro fines paid out to the EU for infractions in relation to schemes like the single farm payments.
The minister said penalties were far outweighed by the billions of EU euro that had been accessed by the local agriculture sector.
“I often hear this argument about regulations,” she said.
“Anybody who thinks that regulations are going to disappear post-Brexit are absolutely deluded. There will always be regulations in place.
“If we were to start out tomorrow not as a member of the European Union and wanted to trade with it, we would have to abide by the regulations from Europe to get into that market.
“It is delusional, to say the least, for people to use the argument that coming out of Europe will mean that there will be no regulation for farmers.”
She claimed funding drawn down from the EU by farmers would not be replaced by the UK Government in the event of a Brexit.
“I can be very assured that the British Government have no intention of replacing that funding,” she said.