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Leaving EU would have negative impact on Belfast as a financial centre, warns TheCityUK boss

By John Mulgrew

Published 02/06/2016

Northern Ireland chairman of Business for Britain, Jeffrey Peel
Northern Ireland chairman of Business for Britain, Jeffrey Peel

Belfast stands to lose "the ability to be part of the attractiveness of an international financial centre" if the UK votes to leave the EU.

That's according to Nicky Edwards, director of policy and public affairs for TheCityUK.

"We very much see the City as a hub, that attracts investment from around the world. That investment might land in London, but it then spreads to the whole of the UK," she said.

"What Belfast and Northern Ireland stands to lose in the event of Brexit is the ability to be part of the attractiveness of an international financial centre."

She was in Belfast yesterday to chair a Brexit debate at Citi in Belfast, with Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary Vernon Coaker MP arguing the case to Remain.

But arguing the case for leaving the EU, Jeff Peel, Northern Ireland chairman of Business for Britain campaign, warned that the importance of the EU was continuing to decline.

"We are seeing a decline in the importance of the EU," he said.

"The EU is much less important than it used to be."

And he warned the EU was "beyond change, and beyond improvement".

Mr Peel said London's strength in its central role in the financial services sector was because the UK was not in the Eurozone.

Mr Coaker said it was "unclear" what the UK could look like in the event of a Brexit.

"We see the impact of that uncertainty...pulling on the value of the pound, both against the euro and the dollar."

He said in the event of a Brexit "we move from certainty, to uncertainty". And he said a "border between north and south would be a border between the UK and the EU".

Mr Coaker said "we get the best of both worlds" being part of the EU. "It's a risk, and a real risk, and one not worth taking.

"Belfast benefits from London's financial hegemony, because of that, it spins off all of that as well."

Ms Edwards of TheCityUK, which represents some of London's biggest financial and professional services firms, said:

"The risk involved in leaving the EU and losing access to the single market is that it would negatively effect the ability for the whole of the UK to attract inward investment, it would very likely reduce the opportunities for UK-based firms to do business into the EU.

"There is anecdotal evidence that people have put business decisions on hold."

Earlier this year, the group issued a warning that financial businesses based in Belfast could pull out of the city if the UK votes to leave the EU.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, had previously claimed firms would "consider alternative locations" instead of Northern Ireland, and in particular Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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