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Brexit would be economic suicide, says hotel owner

By Cate McCurry

Published 19/05/2016

Warning: Bill Wolsey
Warning: Bill Wolsey

Voting to leave the EU would be "economic suicide" for Northern Ireland, one of the country's leading businessmen has warned.

Bill Wolsey of Beannchor Group - which owns the Merchant Hotel and Little Wing pizza chain - was speaking at a Brexit seminar that attracted some of province's most prominent businesses.

The seminar included panel guests Kevin McNamee, group finance director of Denroy Plastics; Angela McGowan, chief economist at Danske Bank, and Paul McMahon, centre director at Castle Court and past president of Belfast Chamber of Commerce.

More than 70 people attended the event from a range of industries including retail, hospitality, professional services, sports and services.

Only three indicated their support for a Brexit at the event organised by ASM Chartered Accountants.

Mr Wolsey said: "I feel that Brexit would be economic suicide. The argument to stay was totally compelling and that Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom do not need any further financial risk.

"We have just spent six years coming out of a financial mess, why would we voluntarily re-enter another one?"

Ms McGowan said whilst Danske Bank remained neutral on the vote, if the UK was to leave the EU there could be grave economic consequences.

Elsewhere, Peter Conway, chief executive of Warrenpoint Harbour, claimed almost half of the jobs there would go if the UK quit the EU.

He said: "I've been speaking to businesses across the EU and they're already getting jittery about what an exit would mean for their relationship with our harbour.

"We have 200 men and women working here every day and if we lost that 40% trade with the Republic of Ireland I would expect this to have a detrimental impact on jobs at the harbour, and as many as half of jobs would be under threat.

"It's a heartbreaking and deeply troubling prospect."

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