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EU referendum: Where Northern Ireland parties stand

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance are to campaign to remain within the EU
Brendan Hughes

MOST of the north's main political parties say they support remaining within the European Union.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party are to campaign to remain within the EU.

The DUP will recommend to voters to leave the EU. The Ulster Unionists are still considering their position.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said the party will be "campaigning vigorously to stay in".

"The island of Ireland has benefited greatly as a result of membership of the European Union," the deputy first minister said.

"In particular, our agriculture and agri-food industry have gone from strength to strength with the help of EU Single Farm Payments."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the referendum is "one of the most important votes faced by people in Northern Ireland in decades".

"It is therefore vital that a strong and positive campaign is conducted to remain in Europe," he said.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, the party's Europe spokesman, said those advocating an EU exit risked leaving Northern Ireland in a weakened state.

"What is clear is that Northern Ireland benefits and continues to reap great rewards through membership of the European Union," he said.

"A vote to exit the EU will leave our nation weak and divided. We must vote to stay in so that we can build on the benefits of our membership."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt appeared to signal that his party may call on people to remain in the EU.

Speaking at a conference in Dundalk on Friday, Mr Nesbitt said his party was "reserving its position" until the completion of the talks in Brussels.

But he warned of issues including that a withdrawal from the EU could trigger another independence referendum in Scotland.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that while her party remains Eurosceptic, members must decide for themselves how to vote in the EU referendum.

"We will on balance recommend a vote to leave the EU," the first minister said.

"As every voter has the opportunity to express a view, we fully expect that DUP members and voters will hold a range of differing personal views."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the party would campaign to leave the EU, adding that "we have nothing to lose but our chains".

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