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Ulster Carpets boss says exports will go on in any EU outcome

By Margaret Canning and Rachel Martin

Published 14/06/2016

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce president Nick Coburn, vice president Ellvena Graham and chief executive Ann McGregorthe
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce president Nick Coburn, vice president Ellvena Graham and chief executive Ann McGregorthe

The boss of Ulster Carpets has said he hopes to start selling his Portadown-made Axminster coverings in Germany - whatever the outcome of next week's referendum.

Nick Coburn is the new president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and he said the prospect of a Brexit was not putting him off exploring trade opportunities in Germany.

The Chamber is neutral on the subject and does not advise its members how to vote.

"Personally - and in our company's view - we look to export to every part of the world and expect to be able to continue after June 23. But hopefully after next Thursday, the uncertainty will be removed."

And he said the EU did not have significant influence on how his £61m turnover company traded. "People talk about red tape. We do a lot of trading in the Gulf, but there's more red tape dealing with the Gulf than Europe."

Mr Coburn added that as Chamber president, he would be able to demonstrate the wide potential for Northern Ireland firms to export.

But the owner of a Belfast flooring chain has said the EU Referendum has meant she has had to put off expanding her business to the Republic.

Julie Crozier of Wood Floor Warehouse said uncertainty of how the border could look in a post-EU Northern Ireland meant she had stalled the major investment. She added that the uncertainty had held her business back at a stage of key growth.

Just seven months after Woodfloor Warehouse opened its first English store, directors at the company were planning on opening a fourth store - in Dublin. Currently, the company employs 21 members of staff, 16 of which are based in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Crozier estimates that she would need to employ five extra staff members in the south to run a Dublin store, as well as more in Northern Ireland to support the company's growth.

Since the launch of its Warrington store last year, the company has taken on two extra members of staff in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Crozier said the effects of the exchange rate and putting off major decisions would impact negatively on business in Northern Ireland, should voters in the UK choose to leave the EU.

But the owner of an agricultural hardware shop in Co Fermanagh has said he is fully in favour of Brexit.

Maurice Surphlis of LW Surphlis in Newtownstewart said the EU put an intolerable burden on his business. "One of the biggest problems we have faced is keeping up with legislation and health and safety. The amount of work generated by this is unreal.

"The amount of time you have to spend keeping records and dealing with traceability is crazy.

"It's basically down to the EU membership and the EU regulations, which is why I believe we would be better out of it. It would certainly be better for the farming community, there would be less bureaucracy to deal with. We couldn't be much worse off anyway. Look at the milk industry for example, it's on its knees."


Belfast Telegraph

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