Belfast Telegraph

Brexit a chance for Northern Ireland fisheries and farms to get better deal, insists Boris Johnson

By John Mulgrew

Boris Johnson has dismissed claims that Northern Ireland will be hit harder than other region in the UK if it votes to leave the EU.

The Mayor of London ­­­- a leading voice in the campaign to quit the EU - said the impact here of Brexit would be "either positive or neutral".

Mr Johnson was speaking during a visit to Lisburn firm Boomer, which makes parts for bus manufacturer Wrightbus.

Later at Wrightbus in Antrim, Mr Johnson officially announced a Transport for London order for 200 more of its famous Routemaster red buses - also known as the 'Borisbus'. The deal, which is worth £62m, will sustain 300 jobs at Wrightbus and will take the number of Routemasters on the streets of London to 1,000.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, he said: "I've looked at some incredible businesses here.

"What's so stunning is the ambition and range of things they do."

A recent poll suggested 81% of businesses in Northern Ireland are pro-Europe, but the senior Conservative put that down to scare tactics.

"I think everyone is based towards the status quo," he said.

"Project Fear is going on by the Government, who are trying to scare the pants off everybody."

And he dismissed fears Northern Ireland would be the hardest hit UK region in the event of a Brexit.

"No. I think the whole of the UK has a real chance to get a different deal and to remain very close trading partners (with the EU)," he said.

"There's a big chance for a better arrangement on fisheries, on farming and on free trade deals around the world.

"I am very pleased that we have been able to support great Northern Irish businesses like Boomer, and of course Wrightbus. The contracts we have got in are very important."

Mr Johnson visited a number of firms during his trip to Northern Ireland, including glazing specialist Windell in Magherafelt before finishing off at Boomer, which makes interiors for the new Routemasters.

He said it was time to give power back to the UK.

But he was unaware David Cameron had beaten him to Northern Ireland, after the Prime Minister toured the province at the weekend.

"I wasn't aware that he had been here," he said.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron said his own pro-EU campaign could not be labelled 'Project Fear' but was instead 'Project Fact'.

Mr Johnson dismissed that as "baloney".

Asked whether relations with Mr Cameron had soured he said: "No, no, no. I think it's very important everyone focuses on the issues.

"The only way to get a new deal is vote to leave - we'll save anything from £8bn to £9bn a year in payments we make to the EU.

"We would also get out from under a project which is increasingly centralised and that basically we don't believe in.

"They want to create this very tight union, based around the euro, and I just don't think it's suitable for the UK."

Mr Johnson said businesses here have "absolutely nothing to be concerned about, indeed everything to gain".

"We have a real opportunity to get out from under the encumbrance, that constricting force which is the European Union and the bureaucracy that's involved," he said.

He also claimed there would be benefits for the farming and fishing industries.

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