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EU referendum: Union boss warns over 'huge implications' for Northern Ireland economy

By John Mulgrew

Brexit could have "major implications" for Northern Ireland's economy and workers' rights, a trade union group boss has warned.

The pro-EU comments from Peter Bunting of trade union umbrella group the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) have come despite one of its members, Northern Ireland's largest public sector union Nipsa, narrowly voting in favour of leaving the EU.

Mr Bunting was last night arguing the case to remain in the EU during a debate at Queen's University, alongside the Trade Unionists Against the EU represented by Doug Nicholls.

Earlier this month, Nipsa highlighted divisions in the organisation, which was split on whether to vote to stay or leave the EU in the referendum on June 23. One Nipsa member told those gathered that "none of this (the EU) is in the interests of working people".

Its members voted narrowly (54%) in favour of leaving the European Union.

Arguing the case for Brexit, Mr Nicholls, chairman of Trade Unionists Against the EU, said it was a "construct that has been foisted on the people of Europe for political and economic reasons".

Mr Bunting said a Brexit could have "major implications for the economy ... huge implications for workers, impact on the number of jobs we have, and the quality of these jobs".

He also blasted the City of London which he said was making money from the uncertainty around the run-up to the vote.

Mr Bunting said the argument had focused on "migration, migration, migration" and had avoided other concerns such as the TTIP business agreement between Europe and the US, along with worker rights.

"The EU is by far the UK's biggest trading partner ... millions of jobs depend on trade with the rest of the EU," he said. "The risk and uncertainty of leaving is bound to have economic effects.

"Leaving the EU will undoubtedly affect the quality of jobs we have, quality of work."

He said EU law has "provided the floor" for worker's rights here. Chairing the event, ICTU president Brian Campfield said the meeting allowed debate "free from the poison" of the "right wing" campaign to leave the EU.

Belfast Telegraph