UKIP has seized on the Ulster Unionists’ decision to back the idea of staying in the EU, saying that it amounted to a “sell-out”.
The UUP had taken longer than the other unionist Assembly parties to decide its stance on the EU, and David McNarry MLA – UKIP’s leader in Northern Ireland – accused the party of having spent its time “dithering”.
The SDLP meanwhile hailed the UUP’s decision, with its former leader Alasdair McDonnell declaring the choice “pragmatic and rational”.
Mr McNarry credited the UK-wide leader of his party Nigel Farage with being “the man who got the people of the UK the referendum”.
He concluded: “The UUP have made an historic choice, once again against the people’s interests. Remember, 23rd June will be the UK’s own Independence Day.
“What we are fighting for is for nothing less than our national freedom.”
Dr McDonnell MP (who was replaced as SDLP leader by Colum Eastwood last year) said that the discussion around Europe “must not be allowed to descend into an orange versus green debate.
“The Ulster Unionists have taken a position which hopefully will prevent anyone from falling into that cynical trap. This debate is far too important for our future security and prosperity to be reduced to that kind of level...
“The proponents of the ‘leave’ side need to spell out their arguments clearly and deal with the obvious issues that would flow from Brexit.”