A farmer who became a poster boy for the DUP’s campaign to leave the European Union says he now regrets his decision.
Charlie Weir said he fears that if the UK leaves without a deal agriculture in Northern Ireland will be “decimated”.
He also said the backstop would be good for Northern Ireland, claiming it would have “the best of both worlds”.
None of the opportunities promised, just challenges
Mr Weir, from Waringstown, County Down, starred in the party election broadcast before the 2017 Westminster election.
In it, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Farmers, like Charlie, know the opportunities leaving the European Union will present as well as acknowledging the challenges.
“Only the DUP can secure the best deal for Northern Ireland as we leave the European Union.”
But just three years on the farmer sees none of the opportunities promised in the campaign, only the challenges.
If I was to vote again, I’d vote remain
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “At the beginning I voted to get out.
“I voted to leave but not knowing the whole story.
“And now if I was to vote again, I’d vote to remain, personally, from an agricultural point of view.
“Here in Northern Ireland, for example, we receive £300m in CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] funding from Europe and if farmers weren’t getting that money they couldn’t survive.
“Farmers would be at a loss.”
Farmers would be at a loss
He said he had listened to the “stories that were told about the big red bus and all the extra money there was going to be for the health service and I thought that we could probably get a better deal”.
But Mr Weir no longer believes the UK will get a deal at all.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a deal at the minute and if we leave with a hard Brexit, I think that agriculture will be decimated.
“I think the only option left for the government at the minute is to go for an extension until they’re in a position to sort things out, whether that [is] with Boris going for an election and getting a government that he can actually control with the power to vote things through.”
“I think the backstop is being overplayed big time”
Mr Weir said he still supports the DUP on 90 per cent of its policies – but not Brexit.
“I think the backstop is being overplayed big time,” he said.
“I don’t see a big problem with the backstop. In fact, the backstop would have been good and it would have meant the best of both worlds.
“You’d have countries wanting to invest in Northern Ireland so that they would have traded with Europe and the UK.
“It would have brought a lot of inward investment and would have made Northern Ireland a very rich and wealthy country.”