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Northern Ireland needs 'political leadership to help steady the ship'

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 05/07/2016

Gavin Killeen, president of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce
Gavin Killeen, president of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce

The president of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has called for "real political leadership" to help Northern Ireland businesses deal with the impact of the Brexit vote.

Gavin Killeen, managing director of the label printing company Nuprint Technologies, said many firms were still reeling from the result and unsure about the future for their companies and for the economy.

"Business does not deal well with the unknown," said Mr Killeen. "From a north-south trade perspective, we don't know when or if there will be tariffs imposed or customs checks on the border. That hasn't been clarified.

"We're hoping that common sense will prevail and that we'll see real leadership from our Executive and from the British and Irish governments. It was a very negative referendum campaign and that was damaging to business confidence even before the shock of the result.

"The economy here in the north west still needs investment and our university still needs expansion. Northern Ireland needs foreign direct investment and foreign companies want a gateway into the Single European Market, which we can't offer them any more.

"I fear that the corporation tax cut may be off the table. We've had the First and Deputy First Ministers flying around the world promoting it for the past 18 months, but this result could spell the end for that incentive."

Nuprint, based in Derry's Springtown Industrial Estate, supplies more than 400m labels a year to a wide range of industries including food and drink, engineering and pharmaceutical packaging.

Exports account for about 30% of its sales and business in the Republic has grown by a third in the past year due to increased demand from the food and drink sector. The company recently created 21 new jobs in a £1.4m expansion aimed at growing its export business.

"The immediate impact is the currency fluctuation which means that our prices have become more competitive for customers in the Republic," said Mr Killeen, "but, on the other hand, the raw materials I buy from Europe have become more expensive. Hopefully, there will be stability soon.

"Business must remain positive and, of course, change also creates opportunities. In the long run, it may help some companies to explore new markets but for now the uncertainty is very worrying and I hope we will see a period of calm after the upheaval of the result.

"Business is resilient and it will cope, as it always does, but it's up to the politicians to answer the questions and find new political solutions."

Founded in 1984, Nuprint began as a specialist supplier of labels to the clothing industry for big names such as M&S, Fruit of the Loom, Burberry, Thomas Pink and Harrods.

Its labels appear on well-known brands like McGees Butchers, Draynes Milk, Utterly Butterly dairy spread and Ruby Blue vodka. It also supplies specialist "clean room" labels for Seagate's plant in Malaysia.

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