Anti-Brexit battle bus to be revealed on border

Colum Eastwood.
Colum Eastwood.
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An anti-Brexit battle bus is to be unveiled by a candidate in Northern Ireland for the European Parliament.

Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood launches his campaign on the Irish border on Wednesday with a deliberate adoption of the tactics of his opponents.

Mr Eastwood is staunchly opposed to EU withdrawal and believes it would be catastrophic for Northern Ireland.

He is from the city of Londonderry, which is a short distance from the frontier and has a hinterland in Donegal in the Republic.

Mr Eastwood will say the campaign is “our people’s vote” and the election “is our time to take back control”.

The Foyle Stormont Assembly member in the suspended devolved parliament is expected to accuse Brexiteers of conducting a misleading campaign and will call for honest politics focused on securing a future in Europe.

Mr Eastwood said: “The voices of people here have been silenced and our interests sidelined.

“That cannot be allowed to continue.

“This election is a chance for our voice to be finally heard, it is our people’s vote.”

He faces a tough race for Northern Ireland’s third European Parliament seat.

Pollsters expect that incumbents Martina Anderson from Sinn Fein and Diane Dodds from the DUP will successfully defend their seats.

The final place is projected to involve a battle between Mr Eastwood, the leader of the resurgent centralist Alliance Party Naomi Long, and the Ulster Unionists’ Danny Kennedy.

Mr Eastwood said: “Based on the figures, the SDLP is best placed to take the seat off the Brexiteers and send a second pro-European voice to Europe to protect our interests.

“I am asking people to put traditional party politics aside and to come out and vote against Brexit, against borders and instead vote for our place in Europe.”

The majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

The pro-Brexit DUP argues that to keep the country aligned to the Republic of Ireland’s trade rules after the divorce using the border backstop would threaten the integrity of the UK.