Conor Spackman takes a road trip to assess the mood in Northern Ireland ahead of the EU referendum.
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The big European Union debate has begun
and the big guns are in town.
It will be decided
by the people of the United Kingdom.
The real opportunity is to strike new trade deals around the world
and get rid of the dead hand of the EU.
We are totally opposed to any exit from Europe.
Europe needs fundamental reforms, and if we were to vote today,
we would leave the European Union.
It's 41 years since the UK last had a say
on its membership of the European Union.
I believe that it's in the interest
of both the UK as a whole,
and of Northern Ireland itself,
that we should remain a member of the European community.
Back then, the UK as a whole opted to remain by a margin of 2-1.
Northern Ireland, in the midst of conflict, also voted to remain,
but by a much narrower margin - 52% to 48% in favour.
It is D-Day in the battle
of a British resurgence based not on isolation,
but on enthusiastic co-operation.
This campervan rolled off the production line
just after the last referendum.
40 years on, I am taking it on the road to talk to people
about how the European Union affects them and their families' lives.
I will find out about political relationships,
about how this referendum could affect politics
in Northern Ireland and beyond.
With less than four months until the referendum on June 23rd,
debate about a British exit, or Brexit,
is beginning across Northern Ireland.
For those who live off the land, times are tough.
Dairy farmers, like the McGuinness family in south Armagh,
are barely breaking even.
-Hi, Kieran. How are you doing?
-Welcome to Kingsmill Farm.
-Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.
-How many cows have you got?
-280 cows here.
Is it a bit of a struggle at the moment?
It's tricky at the minute.
Why, what is making it difficult for you at the moment?
The price is the biggest sticker, you know?
We are down to 17p a litre,
which is well below the cost of production.
What level do you need to be at in terms of pence per litre
to make it profitable?
We would need to be getting 30p or thereabouts.
Especially in the wintertime. The costs are high.
Since 1962, farming in EU member countries
has been governed by the Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP.
CAP subsidies totalling £230 million
are made to farmers in Northern Ireland via the Single Farm Payment.
The Department of Agriculture forecasts the average dairy farm
income this year will be £10,000.
That's down from £45,000 last year.
A massive drop.
It's blamed on a number of factors.
For example, sanctions on Russia,
removing a key market for powdered milk.
It means that this year,
many dairy farmers will be dependent on the Single Farm Payment
It's a matter of being in business or not in business, really.
We couldn't operate without the Single Farm Payment.
How concerned are you that, if you came out of the EU,
that would be replaced by something else?
We don't know if there'll be an alternative or not.
That would be the problem.
Before we ever went into Europe, farmers were subsidised.
While we are in Europe, farmers are subsidised,
but we have less money to do it because we are giving money
to Europe, and when we leave the European Union,
farming will still be an important industry.
And all industries related to farming will be important.
The Ulster Farmers' Union has said it won't be advising its members
on whether they should vote in or out.
However, it has leaned toward staying in by saying it believes
subsidies are crucial to the industry
and that no compelling alternative has been put forward.
Things could be different
in another sector of the food production industry.
I am on my way now to Portavogie to meet a group of people
who have had plenty to say about the European Union
down the years - fishermen.
-How are you?
-Not so bad. How's things?
Very well. Derek, thanks for letting us come.
Derek Edmund has fished out of Portavogie for 40 years.
He is the eighth generation to take to the seas
and his sons have followed in his footsteps.
He says times are as difficult as they have ever been
in those four decades.
You start fishing at six o'clock in the morning.
You finish at six o'clock
or eight o'clock at night.
It sounds like a hard life.
Well, it's not easy, but, sure, what is?
We sign up for this.
It's my way of life and that's the life we like doing.
And we want to continue doing it.
Why do you like it?
It's in my blood. I've been doing it all my life.
My grandfather, and his father before that.
It has just been in the family, but it's getting harder every year.
There's so much red tape now, it gets harder and harder.
Where does the red tape come from?
It comes from Brussels.
We have MPs and MLAs and they come down and speak to fishermen
and fishermen give them their views, but when it goes to London
or Brussels, it seems to be... as far as I'm concerned,
it gets brushed below the carpet.
The European Union seeks to conserve stocks by imposing quotas
on fishermen like Derek via the Common Fisheries Policy.
While once Derek was able to land herring and cod,
he is down to six months catching scallops
and six months catching prawns.
Bring a basket and measuring stick!
The EU says it is necessary to prevent the overfishing that went on
before it stepped in and imposed quotas.
Fishermen believe they might have a more certain future
outside the European Union.
For others, though, a Brexit would create uncertainties in areas
many of us take for granted.
Currently, milk from the McGuinness family farm in South Armagh
goes across the border to a creamery in Monaghan town.
I went to see for myself.
As I came up to the border, I passed a derelict customs post.
A reminder of a different era.
I'm coming up to a bridge which separates County Armagh
from one County Monaghan.
These days, unless you look closely, it can be difficult
to see where Northern Ireland ends and the Republic begins.
And whether that will remain the case
is one of the fundamental questions of Brexit.
Customs controls were introduced shortly after partition
and were dotted along the border
at key crossing points.
Even before the Troubles, when security checks became normal,
the checkpoints were often the cause of queues to cross the border.
These disappeared at the beginning of 1993
with the introduction of the European single market.
Gabriel Darcey runs a creamery where the milk
from the McGuinness family farm ends up.
He is worried what a Brexit could mean for the border
and his business.
Up the road, outside Aughnacloy, there would be another border post.
It harps back to a time
in the relatively recent past
that we all hoped
we had moved away from,
and not dwelling or speaking about the security aspects,
I am purely looking at the trading aspects.
Opponents of Brexit will say there won't be border or customs posts.
Common sense dictates that what's there at the moment
will be what continues to be the case going forward.
If that is the case, and if there are no border controls,
well, that would certainly be helpful,
but as it stands, I can only surmise with what is likely to happen.
When you have two different trading blocs, border controls do exist.
For some, a less open border would be an impediment to free trade.
For others, though, it would represent a political step backward.
Even in a symbolic sense,
that has enormous repercussions for nationalism
because it reinstates the border between north and south
and perhaps it could be interpreted as undermining much of the progress
which has been made over recent years
in terms of bringing north and south closer together.
It's not just the border with the Irish Republic
which comes up in this debate.
I took the campervan to Carrickfergus
to meet some of the locals...
I want to know, are these bendy bananas?!
..with their vocally Eurosceptic MP, Sammy Wilson.
There, it was the UK's borders which was the biggest talking point.
What way are you leaning at the moment?
I would say out.
Er, not because of trade, but because of the immigration business.
I have only lived in Northern Ireland for ten years.
I lived in the North of England the rest of my life
and I could see then what was happening
and it was quite frightening.
And I was last over there three years ago,
and I came back so depressed.
I walk through the town where I was born and brought up...
..and there was very little English spoken.
As someone who's emigrated a couple of times myself,
I have nothing against immigration.
But the border controls are a mess at the moment.
And I would have certain concerns about the whole breakdown of Europe
because we have lost control of it.
All Ireland ever exported for years was immigrants.
So, as a country, I believe we should encourage immigration into us
and I have nothing against that...
Provided we have control over it.
Control of it. Total control.
I think it will affect Northern Ireland worse than the rest of GB.
Why do you think that?
We're reliant on GB which is hugely reliant on Europe.
So I think we would really suffer.
We always do suffer more than the rest of GB anyway...
Financially. Lesser wages, everything.
So, it would hit us quite hard.
Europe's economy is stagnating.
That is one of the reasons why they are selling more goods to us
than we are selling to them.
They don't have the money to purchase them.
I have plenty of scrambled eggs for breakfast anyway!
Sammy is here today because we are talking about the EU
and whether it is a good idea to stay or leave.
-I don't know what would be the best.
I really don't.
The great thing about the referendum is this...
For the first time in 45 years, our position in the European Union
will not be decided by people like me
or the elite at Westminster. It will be decided by people like you.
You're part of the Westminster elite, aren't you?!
They try to stifle this debate about immigration.
As soon as you say immigration, you are labelled a racist.
But most countries in the world have controls
about how many people they want to come in.
If they misbehave when they do come in, what you do with them?
But you can't send them back.
-No, because - currently - you've got the open door policy.
Secondly, you've got the European Court of Justice telling you
who can and can't stay.
The great thing about being out of the European Union
is you would grab back that control.
A few people brought up immigration as an issue.
What impact will Brexit have on that?
Let's face it,
there are many people that come here and bring skills that we require.
We want to welcome those people
because they can make a contribution to our society.
But we also want to control the numbers
so that we don't have, as happens in some parts of the UK,
pressure on housing, schools, and hospitals.
So, I'm not anti-immigration.
What I am is pro control of immigration.
So, we make the decisions about who comes in, who stays,
and who we get rid of.
Having heard the concerns about immigration in Carrickfergus,
I wanted to find out more about the industries that depend on it.
We're heading into what is really the heart of the fishing industry
in Northern Ireland, into Kilkeel.
We are going to see where some of the produce
caught by our fishermen ends up.
Since 1975, this factory has been processing fish
caught off these shores.
Many of the staff are from Eastern Europe.
How important is it to your business to have that access
to that migrant labour?
Just at the moment, if I didn't have them,
I would not be here, and that's just the plain way of it.
We find it very hard to get local labour.
We used to have 99% local labour.
Everybody is dependent, in Northern Ireland,
on migrant workers.
It doesn't matter what manufacturing you are in.
How long have you been in Northern Ireland?
I have been here 13 years.
How many of these people are from Bulgaria?
About 30 or 40.
30 or 40?
-As many as that from Bulgaria working here?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The wages are better here in Northern Ireland?
Yes, yes. Of course.
How often do you go back to Bulgaria?
One or two times per year I go over to see my parents.
My husband is here and I have a son here,
my brother here, but my parents aren't here.
Gergana made me think about how a Brexit might affect her family.
I asked Bernadette McAliskey, an advocate for migrants,
what impact she thought the UK leaving the European Union
might have on immigrants already here.
From my perspective,
it adds to that feeling that you are simply being treated
as a commodity and not as a human being.
And adds to that sense that, if your labour could be wrung out of you,
your humanity would be left at the border.
I don't think the UK could limit the rights of people
already in the UK, but it would appear to be a very cold house,
and it would be a colder house for Northern Ireland
if its immigrant labour population up and left.
Analysts say the prospect of a British departure from the EU
raises questions about future immigration policy.
Many of our agri-food businesses, many of our tourism businesses
rely on European labour at this point in time.
So, the question is,
could local labour take that opportunity instead?
It is critical that we understand
what exactly the UK's position would be
so that we can understand,
both from the business perspective - can they get talent -
and from the individual perspective
as to whether we have any, or greater control, over our borders
which, emotive as it is, is clearly an important part
of what is going through voters' minds as they go to the ballot box.
At the other end of the fishing industry,
it is continued membership of the EU that is causing the headache.
I have two sons.
And, have they a future? You tell me!
You'll have an opportunity to vote in the referendum in June.
How will you vote?
As far as I'm concerned, for our industry, get out and stay out.
While some fishermen have had a long and difficult relationship
with the EU, it is often assumed that farmers look on it
But, as I chatted to the McGuinness family in South Armagh,
it was clear they thought the subsidies from the EU
were little better than a necessary evil.
It's interesting. Even around this table, you are out at the moment.
You're half in, half out.
You're like the hokey cokey!
And you are pretty much stay in at the moment?
Would that be fair?
Yeah. It probably is, yeah.
What would life be like on this farm without subsidies,
if they were taken away?
We would much prefer to work without subsidies of any sort,
and most farmers would, like, but in the present climate you can't.
It's keeping the whole thing afloat.
It is not pushing anything forward.
There's men waiting on it, men hanging for it.
You'd rather not be waiting, begging the EU for money to keep going,
not even to expand or move forward.
No money to reinvest, you know what I mean?
Nothing to put back in.
The McGuinness family were split down the middle
about whether to stay in or get out.
So I decided to find out more about attitudes
within the farming community.
I asked the MP for South Down to meet me at a sheep mart
I suppose you'll do lots of campaigning
over the next few months with the Assembly elections?
I have been doing quite a bit anyway, but I actually like
getting out and meeting the people.
David Cameron goes to Europe and has an argument for UK farmers.
What does he come back with?
Normally, he comes back with basically nothing.
They don't seem to listen.
It is more about Germany, France, and all the other countries.
If we went out of business in the morning,
I don't think them countries would give two hoots about us.
But you can argue better and negotiate better
if you're within the European Union than if you're outside it.
I'm saying just give reflection and consideration to that,
because my concern is concern for you and the pound in your pocket.
I think my vote would be to stay in the EEC mainly because today,
at this sale, the majority of sheep are sold and will be exported
to Southern Ireland for slaughter on Monday or Tuesday.
That would be more difficult for the buyers
and there'd be less money for the farmers
at the end of the day.
Again, those in favour of a Brexit will say, if the UK were outside,
it would be much more flexible.
It could do a deal with Brazil one day and China the next.
It has not been widely published what deals are available
or what the systems will be after the exit.
You are worried about the uncertainty?
It was becoming clear that some farmers prefer the certainty
of life within the EU.
Others felt that leaving might be the radical change
that farming needed.
It reflected at wider mood.
A majority of CBI members in Northern Ireland
back staying in.
But businessmen I talked to preferred the status quo as well.
But, as I toured across Northern Ireland and beyond,
it was clear, also, that there were those who had much more
mixed feelings about the benefits of EU membership
for them and their families.
This morning, we are heading into Dundalk,
and the reason we are going there today is
because it is hosting a big conference on Brexit.
Specifically on some of the political and constitutional
implications of a Brexit.
There's a whole host of speakers.
I'm really looking forward to hearing what people have to say.
The delegates are discussing different political scenarios,
but the ambitions of one keynote speaker's party
dominates much of the chat.
The key message I wanted to give was that for those who want the UK
to remain within the European Union - the Scottish Government,
of course, within that -
we all have to do make a positive case to remain
within the European Union.
It's 18 months since Scotland voted to remain within the United Kingdom.
Many people, including some of the independence movement,
believed that another referendum was unlikely for many years.
Now, some believe it could happen more quickly.
If the UK votes to leave
and Scotland votes to stay in the European Union,
the demand from the people
for another referendum could be unstoppable.
That could be the material change
for another Scottish independence referendum.
In the event the Scottish decide on another referendum
and decide they are better outside the United Kingdom
and inside the European Union,
that begs all sorts of questions
about the long-term cohesion of the United Kingdom
as a single political entity,
and it begs all sorts of questions, for Northern Ireland in particular,
and maybe Unionists even more so.
So, Unionists who are in favour of Brexit
should maybe be careful what they wish for?
I would suggest so.
I sit behind the Scottish nationalists in Westminster.
I taunt them as often as I can
about their ill-fated campaign to leave the United Kingdom
and the fact that, if they had done so,
they would have been destitute
because of the way the price of oil has gone.
I am under no illusions.
It doesn't matter what excuse they need.
The Scottish nationalists will push for a referendum again
at some stage in the future.
Some observers believe that the impact of a Brexit on Scotland
could prompt a referendum here as well.
I think... there isn't a doubt,
that you would have a new referendum
in Scotland, which might take Scotland into independence
with membership of the European Union being a factor.
And that, in turn, you might have a domino effect
which would then lead to a new border poll
because of the impact on Northern Ireland.
When my journey began, I was thinking more about one union,
the European Union.
But as it's gone on, I've begun to think more about another union,
the union of the United Kingdom.
As the 23rd of June approaches, politicians will seek to persuade us
that their view of the European Union is the right view.
I think it is vital
because it creates greater levels
of economic and social cohesion,
greater levels of understanding, and it is good for Northern Ireland.
The important thing about any democracy is that the people
who are elected to the parliament to make the decisions
ought to be capable of being held accountable.
About ten days after Sammy Wilson told me this
I was looking back through the footage of our day together
at Carrickfergus market.
I noticed a conversation that had happened while I was out of earshot.
-They're doing a wee programme, the BBC,
-about should we stay in the European Union or get out of it.
So, I'm going round talking to people
and they'll do an interview with me.
-I say get out of it.
-Aye. Well, do you know...?
Between you and me, get the ethnics out, too.
You're absolutely right, you know?
I was talking to a girl this morning, you know.
I don't know if you know or not, but you see St Anne's Cathedral?
You're coming out of the church at night,
there are people laying on the porches of our Cathedral.
It's ridiculous. People in Northern Ireland sleeping rough and these
people are coming into the country and they're getting houses,
-and getting everything.
It's unbelievable. I don't agree with it at all.
We've been going around trying to find somebody who thinks
we should stay in and I haven't been able to find anybody.
I am happy to hear that!
We're happy to find out what the truth is
-and you're in favour of leaving the EU?
As we saw earlier in the programme,
I met other people in Carrickfergus
who expressed concern about immigration.
That will be part of the debate about the UK's membership
of the European Union.
But Mr Wilson's conversation with the man felt very different.
I, therefore, wrote to him to ask him what he meant when he appeared
agree with the comment, "Get the ethnics out, too."
In response, Mr Wilson asked whether the BBC was,
"having a laugh".
He went on to say, "I am not prepared to spend any more time
"being interviewed, giving you explanations
"or responding to what anyone would regard as a disgraceful request
"to facilitate your biased political slant to this programme."
In a statement today, the DUP said:
Later, Mr Wilson told BBC Newsline he had been taken out of context.
I agreed with the comments he made about leaving the EU.
I was not agreeing with the comments he made about ethnic communities.
Let's listen again to what was said.
'They're doing a programme, the BBC, about should we stay
-'in the EU or get out of it.'
'So, I'm going round talking to people
'then they'll do an interview with me.'
-'I say get out of it.'
-'Aye. Well, do you know...?'
'Between you and me, get the ethnics out, too.'
'You're absolutely right, you know?'
I have been asking people across Northern Ireland
how they feel about the European Union.
Some people have told me they like it,
others have told me they depend upon it,
and others have told me they loathe it.
My journey has come to an end now, but the question
is whether the UK's journey within the EU is going to continue
or whether it's going to come to an end as well.