Belfast Telegraph

Brexit could lead to costly deficits in global trade, says enterprise minister

By John Mulgrew

The UK must think "very carefully" about leaving the EU amid concerns a Brexit could cause a loss of international trade, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has said.

He said major investors from international markets such as China were attracted to Northern Ireland as it opens up the entire EU marketplace.

"I'm probably unusual in Northern Ireland being more pro-Europe than eurosceptic, and that's just within my own party," the minister said.

"If they (businesses) invest in Northern Ireland, they have access to 500m people in the EU.

"We have to be very, very careful before we throw that away."

And there was also criticism of Stormont's inability to agree a final budget and welfare reform, during a business breakfast in Belfast.

Colin Walsh, chairman of the CBI, said that the current political environment was "very unwelcome".

He said there had been a loss of "momentum" since the Stormont House Agreement last year and that "reverse gear was seemingly the only lever which is now being used".

"Now is the time for politicians to create the right environment for the private sector to grow and to allow tens of thousands of high-paid jobs to be created and sustained.

"The CBI wants to see local representatives making decisions. We believe that is in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

"The key word is, making decisions, not kicking the can down the road."

And on the thorny issue of the devolution of corporation tax - which appears to have been pushed into the long grass amid the budget crisis - Mr Bell said: "I don't believe failure to agree on welfare reform and corporation tax is an option for us."

Speaking about Northern Ireland's clawing back from the recession, Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "Northern Ireland didn't use the political cover of recession and the credit crunch to deliver unpopular policies".

Colin Walsh also warned that if a resolution was not found to deal with the Stormont stalemate he "fears the very foundations and platform of peace and prosperity that all of us have worked for, are under threat".

"We want to see our elected leaders living within their means. They need to act responsibly and operate within the financial means at their disposal."

He said it would be "criminal" if the opportunity to drive growth in the public sector through cutting corporation tax was missed.

Belfast Telegraph