Belfast Telegraph

Exit from the EU would cost £1bn a year: Northern Ireland's economy could suffer 'damaging repercussions'

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's economy could suffer damaging repercussions if the UK votes to pull out of the European Union, it has been claimed.

It comes as a report has warned a so-called 'Brexit' could cost the economy a shocking £1bn a year.

That would represent a 3% drop in overall economic output.

And it's cross-border business which could be seriously hit - with two-thirds of small firm exports being shipped to the Republic.

Aidan Gough of InterTradeIreland said there was "no positive outcome" from an EU exit.

"The impact of a Brexit is obviously going to depend on the nature of an exit. In any scenario, it's hard to see any positives for Northern Ireland's economy," he said.

"In the worst case scenario, where the UK is fully out, there could be a big impact here."

Ian Parsley, of the European Movement in Northern Ireland, said the region would "suffer" as a result of an EU exit, which he claimed would be a "backward step".

"I think it would suffer. I think what would happen is we would renegotiate trade with the various nations," he said.

"Not a lot would change, but there would be less influence.

"And as far as agriculture goes, Northern Ireland could stand to lose out hundreds of millions of pounds as a result of exiting the EU."

Wesley Aston, the soon-to-be chief executive of the Ulster Farmers Union, said: "We do receive a significant amount of money from EU. Our annual single farm payment is about £260m a year, and £186m of the rural development programme comes from Brussels.

"We also market a lot of stuff at a European level - part of that is in the Republic.

"The concern could be if we left the EU, because we export so much there, we would still have to adhere to their rules and meet the standards."

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, said it was "important to consider the implications for Northern Ireland from a trade perspective".

Mr Gough said foreign direct investment would also likely take a hit following an exit.

"The potential repercussions are very damaging, and would have a big impact on the Executive's stated objective to balance the economy," he said.

But Ukip MLA David McNarry said Northern Ireland could "at last grow its economy and its industrial base", helped along by the money saved from leaving the EU.

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