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EU vote: Brexit just plain nuts for Northern Ireland, warns US venture capitalist

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 21/06/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Shaun Kelly, head of KPMG International, and Alastair Hamilton (right), chief executive of Invest NI
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Shaun Kelly, head of KPMG International, and Alastair Hamilton (right), chief executive of Invest NI
American business consultant Frank Costello

A leading American business consultant says Northern Ireland's efforts to win inward investment will be blown out of the water if there is a Brexit.

Frank Costello, who runs a Transatlantic consultancy advising US and local firms, said the competitive advantage of a cut in corporation tax would mean little if the UK leaves the EU.

"It's a situation of great irony that Northern Ireland is about to get a reduction in corporation tax but a Brexit would do little to help that opportunity," he said.

"It's beyond short-sighted. Anyone in society, business or politics in Northern Ireland who believes that a Brexit will help stability is defying logic. Britain will be peripheral in the world economy and Northern Ireland will be even further isolated.

"Getting US and Canadian companies to look at investment opportunities here is always an effort, but to put the whammy of a Brexit on the table as well is just plain nuts."

Venture capitalist Mr Costello is a former head of international trade and business assistance for the Boston Economic Development Industrial Corporation and served as chief of staff to Congressman Joseph Kennedy.

Based in Belfast since 1999, he has helped to raise millions of dollars in finance for a number of Northern Ireland companies, particularly in the tech sector, including the scientific camera company Andor Technologies in west Belfast.

"Capital is a coward and the UK is showing that it is not predictable and not stable," said Mr Costello. "The effect is happening already.

"Companies are just not looking here, there's been a slowdown in interest in recent months. It's a shame because we have shown that we can grow firms in life sciences, technology and financial services, the three main sectors being targeted by Invest NI. But that advantage will be lost if the UK exits the EU.

"Ireland, on the other hand, is quite comfortable and competitive within Europe and its economy is growing, specially in fintech and financial services.

"It will continue to thrive while the north is left behind."

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