SDLP will battle to retain North's EU status

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has said that Ireland’s interests, North and South, are best served within the European Union.

Mr Eastwood said that during any referendum the SDLP will campaign hard to retain membership.

He said: “During today’s Queen’s Speech, the British Government committed to it’s election pledge of holding a referendum on membership of the European Union by 2017. Cameron has capitulated to the hardline euroskeptics within his own party and to the rise of populist British nationalism.

“The context of this debate is very different in Northern Ireland. We keenly understand the benefits that membership of the European Union brings. Our rural communities, rooted in farming and fisheries, depend on support from Europe to supplement and sustain their industries. As a member of the EFRA committee during the last parliament, I saw the invaluable support offered by the EU. Our urban centres - and not least Derry which continues to bear the scars of conflict - have been helped along the path to healing by peace funds.

“As a region continuing to emerge from the economic downturn, we will rely substantially on the European Free Market which gives businesses and exporters here access to 500 million consumers. Introducing new barriers to reaching those markets in the current climate would be economic lunacy.

“When a referendum is called, the SDLP will campaign hard to defend our businesses and our economy, our farmers and fishermen by supporting continued membership of the EU.”

EU referendum / EU membership