The DUP looks set to campaign for the UK to leave the European Union, its leader has indicated.
Arlene Foster said that while she will reserve judgment until Prime Minister David Cameron has finished renegotiating the terms of the country’s membership, it is likely her party will join with those who are seeking to leave.
However, in the House of Commons on Wednesday some of her MPs voiced less equivocal views, with Jim Shannon insisting that the UK should quit as soon as possible.
It came as the Prime Minister faced pressure, including from within his own party ranks, about the concessions he is trying to wrest from the EU on matters such as welfare entitlements for immigrants.
On Wednesday, Arlene Foster was quoted as telling the BBC: “Given where we are today, it looks very much as if we will be on the ‘coming out of Europe’ side.
“We are a Eurosceptic party and it certainly looks as if we’re not going to get a deal which will bring any fundamental reforms in respect of our relationship with the EU.”
During a debate in the House of Commons, Mr Shannon, MP for Strangford, complained about the level of “red tape” which he said farmers had to contend with, telling the house: “The fishing sectors and the farmers have a simple solution: have the referendum as soon as possible and let us rid ourselves of the outrageous and top-heavy EU and just say ‘no’ to Europe.”
Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, called on the Prime Minister to “visit the devastated fishing villages, the families angered by EU court rulings on terrorists, the manufacturers smothered in red tape and the haulage companies whose employees run the gauntlet at Calais every week because of the EU’s chaotic immigration policy”.
Mr Cameron responded by indicating that he will indeed visit the Province, telling Mr Wilson: “I will want to address all those issues when I go to Northern Ireland.”
The SDLP has taken a pro-EU stance, as has Sinn Fein.
IRA convict-turned-politician Martina Anderson, Sinn Fein’s MEP for the Province, said that a UK exit would be “detrimental for Ireland, particularly for all Ireland integration”.
UUP MEP Jim Nicholson had indicated on Tuesday that his party is taking no firm stance on the matter whilst negations about membership terms are still under way.
The deal which Mr Cameron negotiates must still be agreed by the 27 other EU countries. A major summit on the matter is to be held on February 18 and 19.