Brexit cataclysmic for Northern Ireland firms, warns UUP businessman
Leaving the EU would be "cataclysmic" for Northern Ireland companies, the Ulster Unionists' business spokesman has said.
Mark Cosgrove, director of Ireland and Scotland for logistics firm Redhead International, said a split with the EU would be the "nastiest and messiest divorce".
He added: "My strong opinion is that it would be a disaster in general, and in the case of Northern Ireland, it would be cataclysmic.
"I think that having secured 12.5% corporation tax, to leave the EU at the same time would be economic madness. What would be our unique selling point as against the Republic?
"Because of our position in the western peninsula of Europe, one of the reasons people choose to invest here is our access to the south and the rest of Europe."
Mr Cosgrove's company is an independent freight business based in England but with depots in Dublin and Belfast.
The firm employs 350 people in the UK and 45 in Northern Ireland, and it makes deliveries between the UK and Ireland and into mainland Europe. Mr Cosgrove said he was speaking as a businessperson rather than for the party, which is yet to state its official position on a Brexit.
The Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor said people cited the trade deficit with the EU as a reason to leave, with the value of our imports outweighing the value of exports to the organisation.
But Mr Cosgrove added: "That trade deficit relates largely to high-end products coming in, such as cars from Germany. That doesn't take account of the large numbers of ordinary goods being transported back and forward every day of the week from the UK to the EU, such as packaging and foodstuffs."
Renewed border controls - for example, between Northern Ireland and the Republic - could affect the profit margin on such products, he claimed. "There's no doubt that business will lose out," he said. And the logistics director said the pro-Brexit argument in general was "like looking at just one side of the balance sheet, at liabilities instead of assets". "I'll be very much arguing that the balance sheet is still in favour of staying in Europe," he added.
He also said there was a lack of clarity around from the Brexit side: "It can't tell us what this is all going to look like. It's all hypothetical."
First Minister Arlene Foster has said that the DUP has been traditionally Eurosceptic and would be supporting a Brexit.
But she added it was subjective and that DUP members and voters would have "differing views".