01/03/2016 Spotlight


01/03/2016

Conor Spackman takes a road trip to assess the mood in Northern Ireland ahead of the EU referendum.


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Transcript


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The big European Union debate has begun

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and the big guns are in town.

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It will be decided

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by the people of the United Kingdom.

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The real opportunity is to strike new trade deals around the world

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and get rid of the dead hand of the EU.

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We are totally opposed to any exit from Europe.

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Europe needs fundamental reforms, and if we were to vote today,

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we would leave the European Union.

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It's 41 years since the UK last had a say

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on its membership of the European Union.

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I believe that it's in the interest

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of both the UK as a whole,

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and of Northern Ireland itself,

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that we should remain a member of the European community.

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Back then, the UK as a whole opted to remain by a margin of 2-1.

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CHEERING

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Northern Ireland, in the midst of conflict, also voted to remain,

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but by a much narrower margin - 52% to 48% in favour.

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It is D-Day in the battle

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of a British resurgence based not on isolation,

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but on enthusiastic co-operation.

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This campervan rolled off the production line

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just after the last referendum.

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40 years on, I am taking it on the road to talk to people

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about how the European Union affects them and their families' lives.

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I will find out about political relationships,

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about how this referendum could affect politics

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in Northern Ireland and beyond.

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With less than four months until the referendum on June 23rd,

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debate about a British exit, or Brexit,

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is beginning across Northern Ireland.

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For those who live off the land, times are tough.

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Dairy farmers, like the McGuinness family in south Armagh,

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are barely breaking even.

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-Hi, Conor.

-Hi, Kieran. How are you doing?

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-Welcome to Kingsmill Farm.

-Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.

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-How many cows have you got?

-280 cows here.

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Is it a bit of a struggle at the moment?

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It's tricky at the minute.

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Why, what is making it difficult for you at the moment?

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The price is the biggest sticker, you know?

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We are down to 17p a litre,

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which is well below the cost of production.

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What level do you need to be at in terms of pence per litre

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to make it profitable?

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We would need to be getting 30p or thereabouts.

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Especially in the wintertime. The costs are high.

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Since 1962, farming in EU member countries

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has been governed by the Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP.

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CAP subsidies totalling £230 million

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are made to farmers in Northern Ireland via the Single Farm Payment.

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The Department of Agriculture forecasts the average dairy farm

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income this year will be £10,000.

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That's down from £45,000 last year.

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A massive drop.

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It's blamed on a number of factors.

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For example, sanctions on Russia,

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removing a key market for powdered milk.

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It means that this year,

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many dairy farmers will be dependent on the Single Farm Payment

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to survive.

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It's a matter of being in business or not in business, really.

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We couldn't operate without the Single Farm Payment.

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How concerned are you that, if you came out of the EU,

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that would be replaced by something else?

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We don't know if there'll be an alternative or not.

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That would be the problem.

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Before we ever went into Europe, farmers were subsidised.

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While we are in Europe, farmers are subsidised,

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but we have less money to do it because we are giving money

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to Europe, and when we leave the European Union,

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farming will still be an important industry.

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And all industries related to farming will be important.

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The Ulster Farmers' Union has said it won't be advising its members

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on whether they should vote in or out.

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However, it has leaned toward staying in by saying it believes

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subsidies are crucial to the industry

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and that no compelling alternative has been put forward.

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Things could be different

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in another sector of the food production industry.

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I am on my way now to Portavogie to meet a group of people

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who have had plenty to say about the European Union

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down the years - fishermen.

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-Hello, Derek.

-Hello, Conor.

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-How are you?

-Not so bad. How's things?

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Very well. Derek, thanks for letting us come.

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Derek Edmund has fished out of Portavogie for 40 years.

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He is the eighth generation to take to the seas

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and his sons have followed in his footsteps.

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He says times are as difficult as they have ever been

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in those four decades.

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You start fishing at six o'clock in the morning.

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You finish at six o'clock

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or eight o'clock at night.

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It sounds like a hard life.

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Well, it's not easy, but, sure, what is?

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We sign up for this.

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It's my way of life and that's the life we like doing.

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And we want to continue doing it.

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Why do you like it?

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It's in my blood. I've been doing it all my life.

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My grandfather, and his father before that.

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It has just been in the family, but it's getting harder every year.

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There's so much red tape now, it gets harder and harder.

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Where does the red tape come from?

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It comes from Brussels.

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We have MPs and MLAs and they come down and speak to fishermen

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and fishermen give them their views, but when it goes to London

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or Brussels, it seems to be... as far as I'm concerned,

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it gets brushed below the carpet.

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Go easy!

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The European Union seeks to conserve stocks by imposing quotas

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on fishermen like Derek via the Common Fisheries Policy.

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While once Derek was able to land herring and cod,

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he is down to six months catching scallops

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and six months catching prawns.

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Bring a basket and measuring stick!

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The EU says it is necessary to prevent the overfishing that went on

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before it stepped in and imposed quotas.

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Fishermen believe they might have a more certain future

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outside the European Union.

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For others, though, a Brexit would create uncertainties in areas

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many of us take for granted.

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Currently, milk from the McGuinness family farm in South Armagh

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goes across the border to a creamery in Monaghan town.

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I went to see for myself.

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As I came up to the border, I passed a derelict customs post.

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A reminder of a different era.

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I'm coming up to a bridge which separates County Armagh

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from one County Monaghan.

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These days, unless you look closely, it can be difficult

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to see where Northern Ireland ends and the Republic begins.

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And whether that will remain the case

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is one of the fundamental questions of Brexit.

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Customs controls were introduced shortly after partition

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and were dotted along the border

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at key crossing points.

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Even before the Troubles, when security checks became normal,

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the checkpoints were often the cause of queues to cross the border.

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These disappeared at the beginning of 1993

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with the introduction of the European single market.

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Gabriel Darcey runs a creamery where the milk

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from the McGuinness family farm ends up.

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He is worried what a Brexit could mean for the border

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and his business.

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Up the road, outside Aughnacloy, there would be another border post.

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It harps back to a time

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in the relatively recent past

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that we all hoped

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we had moved away from,

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and not dwelling or speaking about the security aspects,

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I am purely looking at the trading aspects.

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Opponents of Brexit will say there won't be border or customs posts.

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Common sense dictates that what's there at the moment

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will be what continues to be the case going forward.

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If that is the case, and if there are no border controls,

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well, that would certainly be helpful,

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but as it stands, I can only surmise with what is likely to happen.

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When you have two different trading blocs, border controls do exist.

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For some, a less open border would be an impediment to free trade.

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For others, though, it would represent a political step backward.

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Even in a symbolic sense,

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that has enormous repercussions for nationalism

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because it reinstates the border between north and south

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and perhaps it could be interpreted as undermining much of the progress

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which has been made over recent years

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in terms of bringing north and south closer together.

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It's not just the border with the Irish Republic

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which comes up in this debate.

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I took the campervan to Carrickfergus

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to meet some of the locals...

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I want to know, are these bendy bananas?!

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..with their vocally Eurosceptic MP, Sammy Wilson.

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LAUGHTER

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There, it was the UK's borders which was the biggest talking point.

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What way are you leaning at the moment?

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I would say out.

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Er, not because of trade, but because of the immigration business.

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I have only lived in Northern Ireland for ten years.

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I lived in the North of England the rest of my life

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and I could see then what was happening

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and it was quite frightening.

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And I was last over there three years ago,

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and I came back so depressed.

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I walk through the town where I was born and brought up...

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..and there was very little English spoken.

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As someone who's emigrated a couple of times myself,

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I have nothing against immigration.

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But the border controls are a mess at the moment.

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And I would have certain concerns about the whole breakdown of Europe

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because we have lost control of it.

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All Ireland ever exported for years was immigrants.

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So, as a country, I believe we should encourage immigration into us

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and I have nothing against that...

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Provided we have control over it.

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Control of it. Total control.

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I think it will affect Northern Ireland worse than the rest of GB.

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Why do you think that?

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We're reliant on GB which is hugely reliant on Europe.

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So I think we would really suffer.

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We always do suffer more than the rest of GB anyway...

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Financially. Lesser wages, everything.

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So, it would hit us quite hard.

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Europe's economy is stagnating.

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That is one of the reasons why they are selling more goods to us

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than we are selling to them.

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They don't have the money to purchase them.

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I have plenty of scrambled eggs for breakfast anyway!

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Sammy is here today because we are talking about the EU

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and whether it is a good idea to stay or leave.

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-I don't know what would be the best.

-Uh-huh.

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I really don't.

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The great thing about the referendum is this...

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For the first time in 45 years, our position in the European Union

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will not be decided by people like me

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or the elite at Westminster. It will be decided by people like you.

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You're part of the Westminster elite, aren't you?!

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LAUGHTER

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They try to stifle this debate about immigration.

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As soon as you say immigration, you are labelled a racist.

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Yes.

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But most countries in the world have controls

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about how many people they want to come in.

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If they misbehave when they do come in, what you do with them?

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But you can't send them back.

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-No, because - currently - you've got the open door policy.

-Yup.

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Secondly, you've got the European Court of Justice telling you

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who can and can't stay.

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The great thing about being out of the European Union

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is you would grab back that control.

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A few people brought up immigration as an issue.

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What impact will Brexit have on that?

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Let's face it,

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there are many people that come here and bring skills that we require.

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We want to welcome those people

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because they can make a contribution to our society.

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But we also want to control the numbers

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so that we don't have, as happens in some parts of the UK,

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pressure on housing, schools, and hospitals.

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So, I'm not anti-immigration.

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What I am is pro control of immigration.

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So, we make the decisions about who comes in, who stays,

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and who we get rid of.

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Having heard the concerns about immigration in Carrickfergus,

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I wanted to find out more about the industries that depend on it.

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We're heading into what is really the heart of the fishing industry

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in Northern Ireland, into Kilkeel.

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We are going to see where some of the produce

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caught by our fishermen ends up.

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Since 1975, this factory has been processing fish

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caught off these shores.

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Many of the staff are from Eastern Europe.

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How important is it to your business to have that access

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to that migrant labour?

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Just at the moment, if I didn't have them,

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I would not be here, and that's just the plain way of it.

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We find it very hard to get local labour.

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We used to have 99% local labour.

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Everybody is dependent, in Northern Ireland,

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on migrant workers.

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It doesn't matter what manufacturing you are in.

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How long have you been in Northern Ireland?

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I have been here 13 years.

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How many of these people are from Bulgaria?

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About 30 or 40.

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30 or 40?

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-Yeah.

-As many as that from Bulgaria working here?

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Yeah, yeah, yeah.

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The wages are better here in Northern Ireland?

0:36:010:36:03

Yes, yes. Of course.

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How often do you go back to Bulgaria?

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One or two times per year I go over to see my parents.

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My husband is here and I have a son here,

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my brother here, but my parents aren't here.

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Gergana made me think about how a Brexit might affect her family.

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I asked Bernadette McAliskey, an advocate for migrants,

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what impact she thought the UK leaving the European Union

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might have on immigrants already here.

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From my perspective,

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it adds to that feeling that you are simply being treated

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as a commodity and not as a human being.

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And adds to that sense that, if your labour could be wrung out of you,

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your humanity would be left at the border.

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I don't think the UK could limit the rights of people

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already in the UK, but it would appear to be a very cold house,

0:36:560:37:02

and it would be a colder house for Northern Ireland

0:37:020:37:05

if its immigrant labour population up and left.

0:37:050:37:08

Analysts say the prospect of a British departure from the EU

0:37:130:37:16

raises questions about future immigration policy.

0:37:160:37:20

Many of our agri-food businesses, many of our tourism businesses

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rely on European labour at this point in time.

0:37:220:37:25

So, the question is,

0:37:250:37:27

could local labour take that opportunity instead?

0:37:270:37:29

It is critical that we understand

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what exactly the UK's position would be

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so that we can understand,

0:37:360:37:38

both from the business perspective - can they get talent -

0:37:380:37:40

and from the individual perspective

0:37:400:37:42

as to whether we have any, or greater control, over our borders

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which, emotive as it is, is clearly an important part

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of what is going through voters' minds as they go to the ballot box.

0:37:480:37:52

At the other end of the fishing industry,

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it is continued membership of the EU that is causing the headache.

0:37:590:38:04

I have two sons.

0:38:050:38:06

And, have they a future? You tell me!

0:38:080:38:11

You'll have an opportunity to vote in the referendum in June.

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How will you vote?

0:38:160:38:17

As far as I'm concerned, for our industry, get out and stay out.

0:38:170:38:21

While some fishermen have had a long and difficult relationship

0:38:260:38:30

with the EU, it is often assumed that farmers look on it

0:38:300:38:34

more benignly.

0:38:340:38:35

But, as I chatted to the McGuinness family in South Armagh,

0:38:350:38:38

it was clear they thought the subsidies from the EU

0:38:380:38:41

were little better than a necessary evil.

0:38:410:38:45

It's interesting. Even around this table, you are out at the moment.

0:38:450:38:49

You're half in, half out.

0:38:490:38:52

You're like the hokey cokey!

0:38:520:38:54

And you are pretty much stay in at the moment?

0:38:540:38:58

Would that be fair?

0:38:580:39:00

Yeah. It probably is, yeah.

0:39:000:39:02

What would life be like on this farm without subsidies,

0:39:020:39:04

if they were taken away?

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We would much prefer to work without subsidies of any sort,

0:39:060:39:10

and most farmers would, like, but in the present climate you can't.

0:39:100:39:16

It's keeping the whole thing afloat.

0:39:160:39:17

It is not pushing anything forward.

0:39:170:39:21

There's men waiting on it, men hanging for it.

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You'd rather not be waiting, begging the EU for money to keep going,

0:39:230:39:28

not even to expand or move forward.

0:39:280:39:31

You know...

0:39:310:39:33

No money to reinvest, you know what I mean?

0:39:330:39:36

Nothing to put back in.

0:39:360:39:37

The McGuinness family were split down the middle

0:39:520:39:54

about whether to stay in or get out.

0:39:540:39:58

So I decided to find out more about attitudes

0:39:580:40:00

within the farming community.

0:40:000:40:03

I asked the MP for South Down to meet me at a sheep mart

0:40:030:40:06

in Downpatrick.

0:40:060:40:08

I suppose you'll do lots of campaigning

0:40:080:40:09

over the next few months with the Assembly elections?

0:40:090:40:12

I have been doing quite a bit anyway, but I actually like

0:40:120:40:15

getting out and meeting the people.

0:40:150:40:17

David Cameron goes to Europe and has an argument for UK farmers.

0:40:220:40:26

What does he come back with?

0:40:260:40:27

Normally, he comes back with basically nothing.

0:40:270:40:30

They don't seem to listen.

0:40:300:40:31

It is more about Germany, France, and all the other countries.

0:40:310:40:35

If we went out of business in the morning,

0:40:350:40:37

I don't think them countries would give two hoots about us.

0:40:370:40:41

But you can argue better and negotiate better

0:40:410:40:44

if you're within the European Union than if you're outside it.

0:40:440:40:48

I'm saying just give reflection and consideration to that,

0:40:480:40:52

because my concern is concern for you and the pound in your pocket.

0:40:520:40:56

I think my vote would be to stay in the EEC mainly because today,

0:40:580:41:03

at this sale, the majority of sheep are sold and will be exported

0:41:030:41:07

to Southern Ireland for slaughter on Monday or Tuesday.

0:41:070:41:10

That would be more difficult for the buyers

0:41:100:41:13

and there'd be less money for the farmers

0:41:130:41:15

at the end of the day.

0:41:150:41:17

Again, those in favour of a Brexit will say, if the UK were outside,

0:41:170:41:21

it would be much more flexible.

0:41:210:41:24

It could do a deal with Brazil one day and China the next.

0:41:240:41:27

It has not been widely published what deals are available

0:41:270:41:33

or what the systems will be after the exit.

0:41:330:41:35

You are worried about the uncertainty?

0:41:360:41:38

The uncertainty.

0:41:380:41:39

It was becoming clear that some farmers prefer the certainty

0:41:460:41:50

of life within the EU.

0:41:500:41:51

Others felt that leaving might be the radical change

0:41:530:41:56

that farming needed.

0:41:560:41:57

It reflected at wider mood.

0:42:000:42:02

A majority of CBI members in Northern Ireland

0:42:020:42:04

back staying in.

0:42:040:42:06

But businessmen I talked to preferred the status quo as well.

0:42:060:42:09

But, as I toured across Northern Ireland and beyond,

0:42:110:42:14

it was clear, also, that there were those who had much more

0:42:140:42:17

mixed feelings about the benefits of EU membership

0:42:170:42:19

for them and their families.

0:42:190:42:21

This morning, we are heading into Dundalk,

0:42:370:42:39

and the reason we are going there today is

0:42:390:42:41

because it is hosting a big conference on Brexit.

0:42:410:42:45

Specifically on some of the political and constitutional

0:42:450:42:48

implications of a Brexit.

0:42:480:42:50

There's a whole host of speakers.

0:42:500:42:52

I'm really looking forward to hearing what people have to say.

0:42:520:42:55

The delegates are discussing different political scenarios,

0:42:570:43:00

but the ambitions of one keynote speaker's party

0:43:000:43:03

dominates much of the chat.

0:43:030:43:06

The key message I wanted to give was that for those who want the UK

0:43:060:43:12

to remain within the European Union - the Scottish Government,

0:43:120:43:14

of course, within that -

0:43:140:43:16

we all have to do make a positive case to remain

0:43:160:43:21

within the European Union.

0:43:210:43:22

It's 18 months since Scotland voted to remain within the United Kingdom.

0:43:220:43:27

Many people, including some of the independence movement,

0:43:270:43:31

believed that another referendum was unlikely for many years.

0:43:310:43:34

Now, some believe it could happen more quickly.

0:43:340:43:37

If the UK votes to leave

0:43:370:43:39

and Scotland votes to stay in the European Union,

0:43:390:43:42

the demand from the people

0:43:420:43:44

for another referendum could be unstoppable.

0:43:440:43:46

That could be the material change

0:43:460:43:48

for another Scottish independence referendum.

0:43:480:43:50

In the event the Scottish decide on another referendum

0:43:500:43:53

and decide they are better outside the United Kingdom

0:43:530:43:56

and inside the European Union,

0:43:560:43:58

that begs all sorts of questions

0:43:580:43:59

about the long-term cohesion of the United Kingdom

0:43:590:44:02

as a single political entity,

0:44:020:44:03

and it begs all sorts of questions, for Northern Ireland in particular,

0:44:030:44:07

and maybe Unionists even more so.

0:44:070:44:09

So, Unionists who are in favour of Brexit

0:44:090:44:11

should maybe be careful what they wish for?

0:44:110:44:14

I would suggest so.

0:44:140:44:15

I sit behind the Scottish nationalists in Westminster.

0:44:150:44:19

I taunt them as often as I can

0:44:190:44:22

about their ill-fated campaign to leave the United Kingdom

0:44:220:44:27

and the fact that, if they had done so,

0:44:270:44:29

they would have been destitute

0:44:290:44:32

because of the way the price of oil has gone.

0:44:320:44:35

I am under no illusions.

0:44:350:44:37

It doesn't matter what excuse they need.

0:44:370:44:39

The Scottish nationalists will push for a referendum again

0:44:390:44:41

at some stage in the future.

0:44:410:44:44

Some observers believe that the impact of a Brexit on Scotland

0:44:440:44:47

could prompt a referendum here as well.

0:44:470:44:50

I think... there isn't a doubt,

0:44:510:44:53

that you would have a new referendum

0:44:530:44:56

in Scotland, which might take Scotland into independence

0:44:560:45:00

with membership of the European Union being a factor.

0:45:000:45:04

And that, in turn, you might have a domino effect

0:45:040:45:07

which would then lead to a new border poll

0:45:070:45:10

because of the impact on Northern Ireland.

0:45:100:45:13

When my journey began, I was thinking more about one union,

0:45:200:45:23

the European Union.

0:45:230:45:25

But as it's gone on, I've begun to think more about another union,

0:45:250:45:29

the union of the United Kingdom.

0:45:290:45:31

As the 23rd of June approaches, politicians will seek to persuade us

0:45:340:45:38

that their view of the European Union is the right view.

0:45:380:45:42

I think it is vital

0:45:420:45:43

because it creates greater levels

0:45:430:45:46

of economic and social cohesion,

0:45:460:45:48

greater levels of understanding, and it is good for Northern Ireland.

0:45:480:45:52

The important thing about any democracy is that the people

0:45:520:45:56

who are elected to the parliament to make the decisions

0:45:560:46:00

ought to be capable of being held accountable.

0:46:000:46:03

About ten days after Sammy Wilson told me this

0:46:030:46:06

I was looking back through the footage of our day together

0:46:060:46:08

at Carrickfergus market.

0:46:080:46:10

I noticed a conversation that had happened while I was out of earshot.

0:46:100:46:15

-SAMMY WILSON:

-They're doing a wee programme, the BBC,

0:46:150:46:17

-about should we stay in the European Union or get out of it.

-Uh-huh.

0:46:170:46:20

So, I'm going round talking to people

0:46:200:46:22

and they'll do an interview with me.

0:46:220:46:24

-I say get out of it.

-Aye. Well, do you know...?

0:46:240:46:26

Between you and me, get the ethnics out, too.

0:46:260:46:28

You're absolutely right, you know?

0:46:280:46:29

I was talking to a girl this morning, you know.

0:46:290:46:32

I don't know if you know or not, but you see St Anne's Cathedral?

0:46:320:46:35

You're coming out of the church at night,

0:46:350:46:37

there are people laying on the porches of our Cathedral.

0:46:370:46:39

It's ridiculous. People in Northern Ireland sleeping rough and these

0:46:390:46:43

people are coming into the country and they're getting houses,

0:46:430:46:46

-and getting everything.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:46:460:46:47

It's unbelievable. I don't agree with it at all.

0:46:470:46:50

We've been going around trying to find somebody who thinks

0:46:500:46:53

we should stay in and I haven't been able to find anybody.

0:46:530:46:57

I am happy to hear that!

0:46:570:46:58

They're not!

0:46:580:47:00

We're happy to find out what the truth is

0:47:000:47:02

-and you're in favour of leaving the EU?

-Absolutely.

0:47:020:47:07

As we saw earlier in the programme,

0:47:070:47:09

I met other people in Carrickfergus

0:47:090:47:11

who expressed concern about immigration.

0:47:110:47:13

That will be part of the debate about the UK's membership

0:47:130:47:16

of the European Union.

0:47:160:47:18

But Mr Wilson's conversation with the man felt very different.

0:47:180:47:22

I, therefore, wrote to him to ask him what he meant when he appeared

0:47:220:47:25

agree with the comment, "Get the ethnics out, too."

0:47:250:47:28

In response, Mr Wilson asked whether the BBC was,

0:47:280:47:31

"having a laugh".

0:47:310:47:34

He went on to say, "I am not prepared to spend any more time

0:47:340:47:37

"being interviewed, giving you explanations

0:47:370:47:40

"or responding to what anyone would regard as a disgraceful request

0:47:400:47:44

"to facilitate your biased political slant to this programme."

0:47:440:47:48

In a statement today, the DUP said:

0:47:480:47:50

Later, Mr Wilson told BBC Newsline he had been taken out of context.

0:48:020:48:07

I agreed with the comments he made about leaving the EU.

0:48:070:48:11

I was not agreeing with the comments he made about ethnic communities.

0:48:110:48:16

Let's listen again to what was said.

0:48:190:48:21

'They're doing a programme, the BBC, about should we stay

0:48:220:48:25

-'in the EU or get out of it.'

-'Uh-huh.'

0:48:250:48:26

'So, I'm going round talking to people

0:48:260:48:28

'then they'll do an interview with me.'

0:48:280:48:30

-'I say get out of it.'

-'Aye. Well, do you know...?'

0:48:300:48:32

'Between you and me, get the ethnics out, too.'

0:48:320:48:34

'You're absolutely right, you know?'

0:48:340:48:37

I have been asking people across Northern Ireland

0:48:470:48:49

how they feel about the European Union.

0:48:490:48:51

Some people have told me they like it,

0:48:510:48:54

others have told me they depend upon it,

0:48:540:48:56

and others have told me they loathe it.

0:48:560:48:59

My journey has come to an end now, but the question

0:48:590:49:02

is whether the UK's journey within the EU is going to continue

0:49:020:49:06

or whether it's going to come to an end as well.

0:49:060:49:08

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