Cameron flies in on EU charm offensive

David Cameron addresses activists at the 'Britain Stronger In Europe' campaign headquarters in London on Friday
David Cameron addresses activists at the 'Britain Stronger In Europe' campaign headquarters in London on Friday

The Prime Minister will launch a charm offensive with Ulster farmers as he flies in on Saturday to urge them to stay in the European Union.

It will be David Cameron’s first visit to Northern Ireland since the in-out referendum was called.

He will argue that 50,000 Northern Ireland jobs could be linked to trade with the EU and warn Northern Ireland farmers that they need answers as to how they will be taken care of in the event of ‘Brexit’.

On Thursday the largest farmers’ association in the Province – the Ulster Farmers Union – revealed that it was taking no position on the referendum and was leaving its members to make up their own minds.

However, it also became clear that there are no contingency plans for EU subsidies in place for Ulster farmers should the UK exit from Europe.

In a statement ahead of his visit, Mr Cameron claimed that more than 60 per cent of Northern Ireland exports go to the EU and that leaving the single market of 500 million people would therefore be a “leap in the dark”.

And with Northern Ireland possessing the UK’s only land border with another EU member state, he warned that access to trade and investment from the EU is particularly important for the Province.

“I’m clear that the people of Northern Ireland, and the whole UK, are better off in a reformed European Union,” Mr Cameron said ahead of his visit.

“More than 60 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports go to the EU, and around 40 per cent of its investment comes from the EU. Putting that at risk is a leap in the dark.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted the importance of the EU to Northern Ireland’s large farming sector, saying: “It’s vital that the voices of Northern Ireland’s farmers are heard in this debate.

“They want security and certainty. I’ve never argued the EU is perfect, but I believe a reformed Europe gives them access to a huge single market and an income that helps them keep food prices low for families.

“Those who want the UK to leave the EU need to give answers on their alternatives.”

Mr Cameron said that since 1998 Ulster exports to the EU have increased by over 50 per cent in real terms while food, livestock and vehicle exports have more than trebled.