Northern Ireland companies 'anxious over post-EU economy'
The uncertainty of a post-Brexit economic scenario is making companies here feel uneasy, according to a senior business advisor.
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Speaking at a CBI breakfast event in Belfast yesterday, Peter Burnside, managing partner of the consultancy firm BDO, said the debate about the forthcoming EU referendum was "terribly ill-informed".
"Those who are saying we should stay are doing a poor job of explaining the benefits of Europe," he added.
"And those politicians in favour of Brexit, who are saying, 'trust me, take a leap into the dark together', need to understand that businesses don't like leaping into the dark.
"They like to plan and have knowledge of what lies ahead because we are responsible for people's jobs."
Mr Burnside added that companies were also concerned that the Government was not planning for a Brexit scenario. "That's an inherently uncomfortable position for business because there's a chance of major change and no one is preparing for it," he said.
The CBI is backing the campaign to remain in the EU, following a survey of its members across the UK which found more than 80% were in favour of staying.
The consensus at the breakfast discussion, held at the Ramada Hotel, was largely pro-EU.
Peter Shields, managing director of Belfast software company Etain, said that the fast-growing Northern Ireland tech sector had benefited significantly from the European Regional Development Fund and from the influx of European migrant workers.
"We're a people business - we need highly technical and highly skilled staff, and we don't have enough in Northern Ireland," said Mr Shields, who employs 43 people.
"There's a huge number of European workers here in Belfast. We've had experience with Dutch, Romanian and Spanish workers and it's been highly positive.
"Staying in the EU gives us certainty. Exiting leads to uncertainty, plus a loss of goodwill with European customers and disruption that we don't need."