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Big-money investors may turn backs on NI

Our new life outside Europe... your guide to how things are likely to change

By Margaret Canning

Published 25/06/2016

Northern Ireland's ability to attract big money investments from foreign companies has been thrown into doubt by Brexit, it has been claimed
Northern Ireland's ability to attract big money investments from foreign companies has been thrown into doubt by Brexit, it has been claimed

Northern Ireland's ability to attract big money investments from foreign companies has been thrown into doubt by Brexit, it has been claimed.

Major foreign direct investors include Bombardier, Citigroup and Moy Park - a homegrown company that's now part of a bigger international firm, Brazilian company JBS.

The province has been able to use its position inside the EU as a selling point for international firms thinking of setting up European headquarters in an English-speaking country.

But the absence of that position in future could mean fewer companies are interested in setting up here.

And the Executive had also hoped to use the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers to the Assembly - which was to enable the Assembly to set a tax rate of 12.5% for companies - as an additional selling point.

Northern Ireland has previously been a major success story at securing investment overseas though its success has been fading.

This year, rankings from business advisors EY covering 2015 found that there had been just 15 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects during 2015, down from 39 a year before.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the pursuit of foreign direct investment - especially from the US - had been a "big objective" for Northern Ireland policymakers.

"A key reason why Northern Ireland has been attractive to these foreign-owned companies is access to the EU market of 500m people (the largest single market in the world).

"Indeed, it is questionable whether many of them would be here at all, without this market access."

He said the referendum raises questions about the ability to attract FDI in future.

"It also raises questions about the sustainability of foreign investment already here. Until there is clarity around what our new trading arrangements will be (are we going to be in the single market or not?), could Northern Ireland be seen as a no-go zone for some FDI."

And he said that the effectiveness of the lower rate of corporation tax as a tool to attract companies may also be jeopardised.

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