EU referendum: Campaigns make final appeals to NI voters

Home Secretary Theresa May MP (left) during a visit to Denroy Plastics Ltd with Lady Sylvia Hermon MP
Home Secretary Theresa May MP (left) during a visit to Denroy Plastics Ltd with Lady Sylvia Hermon MP

Both camps in the EU referendum campaign have made final impassioned appeals for the public to come out and vote, with just a day to go until polling stations open.

After months of debate, 1,260,955 Northern Ireland voters will on Thursday be eligible to have their say on whether the United Kingdom is to remain within the European Union or is to leave.

On Tuesday the Remain campaign flew in Home Secretary Theresa May, the last in a long line of senior British politicians to have visited the Province during the campaign.

Speaking in Bangor, she said that the economic argument for Northern Ireland to vote Remain is “compelling”.

And, speaking about the border, she said: “It is inconceivable that a vote for Brexit would not have a negative impact on the North/South border bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives.

“Put simply, Northern Ireland outside the EU could not prevent free movement and continue with an open North/South border.”

However, Lee Reynolds, who has been directing the Northern Ireland campaign for Vote Leave, urged voters who distrust the EU not to awaken with regrets on Friday morning if they have voted for Remain.

He said: “The biggest regrets you have in life are what you don’t do. We may never get the chance to decide again. On Thursday, Vote Leave.”

He added: “The In campaign has tried to argue for both the status quo and for reform but neither are on the ballot paper.

“The status quo of the EU has been rightly described as: ‘a bad deal … bad for our economy … bad for our reputation internationally … bad for democracy. It gives the EU too much power.’

“These are not the words of Boris Johnson but of Sinn Fein. The EU will not stay as it is today but ask for more money and more powers as it builds a super state.

“When voters look at the ballot paper they will not see the word reform on it, that is because a reformed EU is not on offer.”

Mr Reynolds said that voting to leave gave voters the chance to “free ourselves”.

“What a Vote Leave offers is to free ourselves from an inward-looking, bureaucratic, wasteful, cumbersome and unreformable EU.

“What a Vote Leave offers is more powers for Belfast, more money for our priorities, more trade with the world and a fairer controlled immigration system.”

But Tom Kelly, chair of the Northern Ireland ‘Stronger In’ campaign, said that the local arguments are “clear and self-explanatory”.

He said that Northern Ireland is a net beneficiary of EU funds and that “our peace has been underpinned by EU funding to the tune of over £2 billion”.

He accused some of those in the Leave campaign of “prolonged and sustained lies” and of “giving a nod and a wink to outright xenophobia”.

He said that expert opinion in favour of the EU had been “derided by ideologically driven Luddites”.

He added: “This referendum is about even more than important issues such as economics, trade and jobs, even more important than borders or sovereignty. It’s about the very soul of our society and the measure of our compassion for each other and others.”

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday, with suitable photographic ID – such as passport – necessary to vote.