David Cameron would need to secure sweeping concessions from Europe, including regaining UK control of immigration, for the DUP to support British membership of the EU, Diane Dodds has said.
The free movement of people is a fundamental building block of the EU, but the DUP MEP said that if the Prime Minister does not regain control of border controls then the DUP would recommend that voters should vote to leave the EU.
Speaking to the News Letter at Balmoral Show last week, Mrs Dodds said: “If you were to say to me that we were to have an EU referendum in the morning, what would the DUP be asking people to do? They’d be asking them to vote to come out. because the European Union of 2014 does not suit the United Kingdom.
“The EU that we joined all those years ago has changed radically, yet no one under the age of 56 in Northern Ireland has ever had a say on our ever-changing relationship with Europe.”
Referring to Mr Cameron’s hopes of re-negotiating the terms of Britain’s EU membership before an in/out referendum, Mrs Dodds said: “Renegotiation is not going to be easy, and what we’re saying to him is: this is what’s on the table for us now – any renegotiation will have to deal with...the issue of our lack of border control addressed; we need the issue of this ever-increasing encroachment of Europe into the meddling in our national life addressed; we need to ensure that as Europe brings in laws it actually throws out others so that we’re lessening the burden of bureaucracy...and we’re adamant that we pay too much to Europe and get not enough back.”
Mrs Dodds has produced four funding directories for community groups, businesses and faith groups and claims that an estimated 10,000 people have attended her numerous public meetings about the funding booklets.
She said they had been “phenomenally successful because they actually target need; because they [show] this party, Diane Dodds MEP, just working with local communities and doing that”.
When asked if she thought unionism is broadly happy with where Northern Ireland is under the DUP’s leadership, Mrs Dodds said: “We have had an excellent canvass right across Northern Ireland; we’ve had an excellent two days at this Balmoral Show; I’ve been meeting people from right across Northern Ireland.
“You know, people want strong leadership, they want Northern Ireland taken forward, they’re tired of negativity and vitriol and they want unionism to stand up for unionism and actually move Northern Ireland forward.”