Delta Print chief Terry Cross says we'd be better off with the euro
One of Northern Ireland's best known entrepreneurs has said the region would be better off if the UK adopted the euro as its currency.
Terry Cross, the founder and chairman of Delta Print and Packaging in west Belfast, has thrown his weight behind the pro-EU campaign in the run-up to the European referendum.
"Northern Ireland is far too parochial and the more exposure we get to a bigger market, the better it is for us," said Mr Cross, who has recently opened a new factory in Poland to be closer to the company's European customers.
"It's a 'common market' and there should be a common currency and no barriers to trade across all the EU states, including Britain. We need to scale up and work together to compete with China, Russia and the US. There's nobody coming forward with an overwhelming case that we would be much better outside the EU.
"I'm old enough to remember queues of lorries at the Irish border and we don't want to have that situation, not just at our own border, but at every border across Europe. We would just be seen as an increasingly irrelevant offshore island. Of course we need to effect reform within Europe, but the best way to do that is to stay within the club."
Mr Cross established Delta Print in 1981 above a corner shop in west Belfast and started off printing business cards. The company now turns over around £40m a year and employs more than 300 people. It produces packaging for customers including Nokia, McDonald's, KFC and Kellogg's. About 15% of output goes to the UK and Ireland and the rest to Europe.
"We employ about 50 Polish workers in the Belfast factory and our recent growth and development would not have been possible without them and the skills they bring to us," Mr Cross said. "Leaving the EU would present us, and other manufacturers, with a major problem if the free movement of skilled labour was restricted. Local industry needs these workers." Last September, Delta opened a new 110,000 sq ft litho printing factory near Katowice in Poland. It currently employs around 60 people and the workforce is expected to double over the next year.
"We needed to be closer to our European customers, because the issue of carbon footprint is very important to them," said Mr Cross.
"Setting up the factory in Poland has been very beneficial and very straightforward, with minimal red tape, despite what people say about bureaucracy in Europe. We're located in one of Poland's special economic zones, where the corporation tax rate is effectively zero.
"Poland started up these zones about eight years ago and so far they have created 58,000 jobs. Huge international manufacturers like IBM and General Motors have set up there, too."
Mr Cross also exports wine from his own vineyard, Chateau de La Ligne in the Bordeaux region of France.
"We have to pay two euro duty on each bottle imported to the UK. That's another barrier that needs to come down, and soon."