Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Referendum could throw baby out with bath water

Export, we keep saying until we're blue in the face, is the golden ticket that will take us soaring out of these recessionary times, the panacea to all our economic woes and the balm which will sooth our chapped banks.

That's all very well but to export we need to have good working relationships with the countries we want to sell our products to.

When it comes to the European Union we have, by and large, managed to make the most of the accesible markets right on our doorstep.

There are glitches, not least the wealth of red tape which Brussels beaurocrats seem to enjoy adding to many business processes across the Union.

And you can see why David Cameron wants to tweak a few things to make business easier with the UK.

But whether a full-blown referendum is the right way to go about it is another thing entirely.

There's certainly a lot at risk involved, what with the £3.2bn worth of goods and services which we in Northern Ireland export to European countries each year.

And don't forget that includes £1.2bn to our nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner in the Republic.

In fact, the risks are much bigger for us in Northern Ireland, the only region of the United Kingdom to share a land border with a European country.

So let's hope Mr Cameron knows what he's doing.

While there are many business people here who would like to see the act of trading with European Union countries made simpler, there are none who would be prepared to let it slip through their hands.