Nigel Farage last night dismissed the notion that Britain quitting the European Union will precipitate the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The Ukip leader was speaking just before the Grassroots Out rally at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.
The News Letter put to him concerns expressed by David Cameron and others that a Brexit could increase the demand for another independence referendum in Scotland.
Mr Farage said: “The threat to the Union from staying in the EU is that we are no longer an independent, self-governing nation state and we effectively all become a province of a politicised Europe.
“It’s got a flag, it’s got an anthem, it’s got several presidents, it’s building an army, it’s got quite an aggressive foreign policy. If we stay in the EU, frankly the Union isn’t worth very much.”
He added: “Wouldn’t it be funny if the UK votes to be independent and the Scots vote not to be independent. I don’t see that happening. I don’t see any appetite in Scotland for a second referendum.
“I don’t believe that with oil trading at $35 a barrel compared with the SNP’s target of $113 a barrel that the arguments would even be credible.
“[Nicola] Sturgeon herself has said that she would not have that referendum unless she saw 60% of Scots who wanted to break away from the United Kingdom.
“So for all those reasons it isn’t going to happen. And we will have a better, stronger, more effective Union if we vote to divorce ourselves politically from the European Union.”
Pressed on any dangers to the wider Union, not just from Scotland but in Northern Ireland, he said: “There is no point in having the United Kingdom, there is no point having England, there is no point having Northern Ireland, or Scotland, there is no point in any of it if we stay part of a European Union that already makes 75% of laws. We have lost our genuine ability to be a nation state. I believe this issue trumps everything.”
Asked about the specific issue facing Northern Ireland – its land border – Mr Farage replied: “If Ireland had made the mistake of joining [the Schengen agreement on a borderless area] that would be a valid question to which I would not have a straightforward answer. Ireland did not join Schengen, she joined the euro stupidly and has paid a heavy price for it but she didn’t join Schengen.”
Questioned about his assessment of the Out campaign’s prospects in the coming referendum, Mr Farage said that the big imponderable was the undecided voters. However, he said that he took comfort from what he described as the scare tactics of the government, which denoted desperation.
He said that he always got a good reception on his visits to Belfast, including two separate visits this week, but that Scottish nationalist tactics meant that his visits to Scotland were more difficult.
Other speakers at the rally were Tory MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove, Labour MP Kate Hoey, DUP MPs Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley Junior, MLAs Jim Allister and David McNarry, businesswoman Pam Watts and economist Graham Gudgin.