Immigration, benefits culture and the Union - UUP's Tim Collins has his eyes on national issues

“I asked myself, could I do a better job? And the answer is absolutely”. Tim Collins on why he's running in the Westminster election for the Ulster Unionist Party.“I asked myself, could I do a better job? And the answer is absolutely”. Tim Collins on why he's running in the Westminster election for the Ulster Unionist Party.
“I asked myself, could I do a better job? And the answer is absolutely”. Tim Collins on why he's running in the Westminster election for the Ulster Unionist Party.
The man hoping to replace Stephen Farry as the MP for North Down has spoken to the News Letter about his priorities – which include promoting the Union, immigration and taking on the “nationalist” Alliance Party.

Colonel Tim Collins was also scathing about his potential rivals, saying “they are concerned with potholes, parking and dog excrement on the pavement”.

The Ulster Unionist Party recruit, who currently lives in Canterbury, also says the thought of disability benefits disappearing in a united Ireland, and people having “to get up in the morning and go to work” would focus minds in a border poll – and challenged the EU’s “hubris” over Brexit.

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The Belfast native had a long and distinguished career in the British Army – and made a famous speech on the eve of the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003. He’s now got his eyes set on the House of Commons, and is determined to bring unionist representation back to North Down.

He said “the place of NI – whilst it’s safe in the Union and the statistics show that – it’s not being well represented or well served in Parliament. In North Down in particular… I think the people of North Down are not well served”, he said.

It is the national issues which clearly interest him most – be it the state of the union or immigration. He doesn’t mince his words – particularly about potential rivals in North Down.

“What they have no way of understanding – because they’ve never lived outside NI – is that we have various levels of governance. We have councils which deal with potholes and parking”, he said – adding the job of MPs is to make sure NI gets its fair share of the benefit from being in the UK.

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Mr Collins argues there “isn’t any quality whatsoever” or anyone with the necessary sort of “gravitas” amongst the other candidates.

On the current MP Stephen Farry: “He is not a unionist. He’s said that himself. He is someone who would prefer that another jurisdiction runs this nation. North Down is solidly unionist, and I want it represented for what it is.

"The position of the Alliance Party is at least vaguely if not broadly pro-nationalist. People need to be aware of that… I want to offer a modern, progressive deal within the Union”.

Mr Collins added that “in terms of the relationships forged in the nation’s parliament in Westminster to deliver the goods for North Down – I just don’t see that being done. I had asked myself ‘could I do a better job?’ And the answer is absolutely”.

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On a border poll, he said: “In the privacy of the polling booth, when people had the choice to pay 60 euros for every visit to the doctor, and 60 euros for every every prescription – if Disability Living Allowance went away and people had to get up in the morning and go to work – I think that the Union would be secure between about 85 and 90 per cent”.

Asked why he had chosen the UUP over the DUP, he said his views don’t line up with the “core beliefs” of the DUP on issues such as gay marriage – and he wants to bring a “modern world tinge” to the NI benches at Westminster.

“The Ulster Unionist Party in my mind is the party that young people are looking towards. The two things I want to deliver, above everything else, is to appeal to the youth and make the case why unionism is important to them. And youth from right across the spectrum. People from catholic, protestant and no religious background at all. People who are newly arrived here in Northern Ireland, making their life here – why unionism is the thing that should be offered to them.

“And also to bring about the beginning of the green shoots of unionist unity. When people look on the green benches of Westminster, what they see is a DUP block vote. And what they say is seen as a DUP position, and not a unionist position. What needs to be delivered is a unionist position because there is a lot of friends in parliament who will take an interest in Northern Ireland. They wish us well”.

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He said people in Great Britain have a warm view on NI – but it’s being portrayed as the opposite. However he says there is “a real turn off with the political parties and some of the positions they take” – and that DUP MPs in Westminster collectively “present quite an austere picture, which is a turn off”.

He argues Brexit has harmed the province – but says “the main problem we face is hubris from the European side”. Pointing to the over 8500 mile frontier the EU has with countries such as Belarus, he said 80% of the checks the EU carries out on trade are carried out between GB and NI – and argues there are more pressing issues for both the EU and UK, such as migration.

The former colonel said “the greatest migration of people since the Second World War is happening now. The faces of our whole societies are changing, and we see that in Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain – and it will come to Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is completely overwhelmed by the mass tide of immigration. We need to start addressing these problems, because these are collective problems”.

He claimed public services in Great Britain are “collapsing” because “since 2016 a greater number of people than the entire population of NI have come and settled in Britain. Many of these people work in low paid jobs, they’re not contributing – some are but the vast majority aren’t – in terms of tax. They need somewhere to live, they need health, social services. That’s why the NHS is collapsing, because it’s just overwhelmed. The housing sector is completely overwhelmed – and we’re seeing people who have been on housing lists for a long time being side-stepped [because of the public duty] to look after asylum seekers”.

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