DUP MEP Diane Dodds has mocked the Prime Minister’s proposals for renegotiating the UK’s membership of the European Union – but has declined to say that the DUP will definitely call for people to quit the EU.
The DUP has its roots in hard line Euroscepticism, with founder Ian Paisley having described it in 1998 as the “A beast ridden by the harlot Catholic church, conspiring to create a Europe controlled by the Vatican”.
Most of the DUP’s MPs are signed up to the Better Off Out campaign to leave the EU. However, in recent years, although he party has been heavily critical of the EU, it has generally called for reform in Brussels rather than a British exit.
Recent manifestos have called for reform and a referendum on whether to quit, but have not said that the party would necessarily be in the ‘Out’ camp.
During an extended interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Mrs Dodds dismissed Mr Cameron’s request for EU reform as “thin gruel”.
Among Mr Cameron’s key demands are changes to restrict access to benefits for EU migrants until they have been resident in the UK for four years, allowing the UK to opt out of the EU’s core ambition to work towards an increasingly closer union, cutting the “burden” of EU regulation and an assurance than non-Euro currencies such as Sterling will not be disadvantaged.
Mrs Dodds said: “We are giving them the opportunity to actually do those negotiations, we’re giving them the space to do those negotiations and we don’t want to tie his hand.
“However, we have said clearly...that these things amount to very, very little.”
The DUP’s position is in common with the UUP. However, the SDLP and Sinn Fein are firmly in the pro-EU camp, irrespective of the outcome of the renegotiation.
Mrs Dodds acknowledged that the EU is “important to the farming community”, with the Single Farm Payment “extremely important to farmers’ incomes”.
But when presenter William Crawley pressed Mrs Dodds for a “simple answer” on whether farmers would be better off out of the EU, Mrs Dodds said: “These are not simple questions”.
She said that many farmers are keen to quit the EU, with some dairy farmers believing that Brussels “has actually not addressed the serious crisis in the dairy industry. And what we do know about the EU’s agricultural policy”.
And she warned that even if Britain stays in Europe, farming subsidies are likely to fall significantly over coming years. Mrs Dodds said that by 2028 EU agriculture policy will place farmers in countries such as Bulgaria and Hungary on the same level as farmers in Northern Ireland, leading to a cut in the agricultural subsidy.
‘RoI should plan for UK exit’
Former Ulster Unionist MEP Lord Kilclooney has said that the Republic of Ireland should be outlining what arrangements with the UK it would require should Britain leave the EU.
In a letter to the Financial Times, the cross bench peer said: “It is being claimed that Brexit would create barriers for trade between the UK and the Republic, end freedom of movement between the two nations, and end the political agreement in Northern Ireland. “I consider all three claims to be nonsense! However I do agree that Brexit would be a strategic risk for the Republic, as its prime minister, Enda Kenny, has stated.