Small business owners in Northern Ireland call to leave EU
Campaigners say Brexit would have 'little impact'
Small business owners in Northern Ireland have said the UK must vote to leave the EU, which has grown from a single trading market into a ‘dominating beast’.
Business groups and the bulk of large firms here have previously come out in favour of the UK staying as part of the EU, with one poll suggesting 81% want to stay.
But now several small business owners are backing a Brexit.
Jonny Lavery runs his family’s Belfast-based direct marketing business, Ace Distribution.
He’s firmly in the Vote Leave camp, and is also running for the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Ukip candidate.
"Smaller businesses are burdened by diktat, environmental, health and safety, and the burden of over-regulation," he said.
"It is damaging smaller businesses and leaving will free them up.
"They are able to deregulate from these EU laws.
"We will be able to deregulate from these EU laws, and can re-engergise to train and to bring on new staff."
And he believes some warnings from businesses who have said leaving the EU would be destructive for Northern Ireland are just "scaremongering".
"It's scaremongering and scare tactics. The impact will be minimal."
Accountant Adrian Huston, who is part of the Vote Leave campaign, says what was once just a free-trading marketplace has "grown into a beast which is now dominating".
"I believe we will be able to negotiate trading arrangements on par with the single market," he said.
"Europe costs us a lot. The UK needs to have the right to make its own laws and, if needed, to have different laws to other European countries.
"There is so much red tape. I'm an accountant, and my clients are having to do lots of admin, which may be able to be reduced if we are out.
"Northern Ireland always benefited from the cheque books of London and Europe, but a principled stance means we have to rise above this.
"The support Northern Ireland gets, the UK can give us the equivalent of EU support."
However, Mr Huston stressed there were "no guarantees" that would be the case.
Earlier this month, William Wright of Wrightbus became one of the highest profile businessmen to signal he wanted to the UK to leave.
Mr Wright said it was time "to take back control of our own affairs".
But the latest comments come as the CBI says that leaving the EU would cause a "serious shock" to the UK economy, with a potential loss of nearly a million jobs as a result.
But Ron Shaw, owner of east Belfast based Shaw Hire Services, says small businesses like his don't have the same ability or cash to lobby the EU for aid or assistance.
"It's too often small business that feels the brunt of EU directives and there's no apparatus in place to remove those making those directives," he said.
"I'd much rather regulations were imposed on business by local representatives who we, the public, can hold accountable," he added.
Almost half of small businesses in Northern Ireland could still be swayed to vote to leave the EU, according to a poll that was carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses.