Northern Ireland has '26,000 firms which depend on trading with EU'
Around 26,000 firms in Northern Ireland rely on import and export trade with the EU, new figures have shown.
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Business Secretary Sajid Javid said new figures show 1.2 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the UK are reliant on trade with the EU.
"This shows yet again that small businesses across Northern Ireland are stronger, safer and better off in Europe," he said.
"If we leave the EU, small firms are on the front line and that's a gamble with people's livelihoods I'm not willing to take."
Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: "Having unfettered access to the EU's single market allows small firms to progress and thrive.
"The single market enables local businesses to export easily into a market of 500 million people without having to worry about different rules or barriers to trade.
"It would be damaging for small businesses if we were to cut ourselves off from the single market and this would in turn be damaging for local jobs and investment."
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But figures for last year show that trade with the Republic has dropped by 8.1%, down £185m.
Northern Ireland's exports to the EU as whole, which includes the Republic, fell by 4.6% to £3.46bn.
Meanwhile, a new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has said more than 100,000 UK manufacturing jobs could be created by remaining in the EU.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said: "Critical to local manufacturing success is the ability to easily trade across borders, particularly with the Republic given our proximity. The implications of a Brexit would be acutely felt by local manufacturing business.
"We have ambitions to grow employment and GDP from manufacturing to 20% of our economy."
Former Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "3,500 manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland will be created due to our place within the single market.
"Leaving the EU means those new manufacturing jobs just won't be created."