Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) led by Mike Nesbitt has recently come forcefully in favor of the ‘stay in’ the European Union option despite dissent from a few of its members. Its decision to do so is based both on the significant amount of funds that the European Union has invested in Northern Ireland and on a keen awareness that that the inter-Irish border which has over the past decade become a bridge of corporation between the north and the south binding together communities on both sides could easily become again a dangerous barrier and a source of conflict to the detriment of the people in the Republic of Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland.
Mike Nesbitt favors devolution of powers from Westminster to Britain's constituent nations and in particular to Northern Ireland, and is skeptical as to David Cameron's intentions promises to do so in the future. He sees the European Union as the primary vehicle capable of promoting a greater autonomy for Northern Ireland within a larger continental community ensuring the freedom of travel of all European citizens, including those from Northern Ireland, throughout the EU. Writing in the Belfast Telegraph in March 2016 Mike Nesbitt clearly stated his party’s position on this issue:
I do not think everything in the Brussels garden is rosy. I fully support further reform, aimed at a return to the original idea of a common market for the free trade of goods and services. I fully oppose any further drive towards greater political union. That is counter-intuitive to our political journey here in Northern Ireland, where diversity is celebrated as a strength, not suffocated for some so-called greater good. But the UK retains a massive degree of sovereignty already. We were not forced into the Eurozone. We did not have to sign up to the Schengen Agreement. The UK Government will put the interests of our people first in the future.
He also dramatically warned that leaving the European Union could lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom and the return of the troubles to Northern Ireland, and pointedly asked his dissenting colleagues how anyone could support quitting the EU when this threatened the very future of the union they loved. In addition to campaigning in favor of staying in the EU, the UUP is also currently involved in difficult negotiations to form the next Northern Island Executive - a difficult and uncertain task in the present political context in Belfast, which is proving to be a significant distraction from channeling all its energies and resources in campaigning for the ‘stay in’ the EU option.