There are “extreme risks” looming for Northern Ireland over exiting the EU, one business body boss has said.
Stephen McCully, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the province was contemplating “having to ‘hop-off’ and ‘hop-on’ to another bus where the destination is far from certain”.
Addressing businesses and Mayor of London at Hillsborough Castle, Mr McCully said Boris Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland is “timely” after a Chamber survey showed 81% of businesses here want to stay in the EU.
Just 11% said they wanted out of Europe.
“That compares to 30% of those surveyed in the rest of the UK,” he said.
“What I’m hearing from members is real concern about the investment hiatus and uncertainty that this referendum creates.
“There is also concern about connections and the continuity of trade into important markets.”
And he said the prospect of a reduced rate of corporation tax in the hands of Stormont by April 2018 was being “overshadowed” by the EU referendum.
“While all the foundations for breakthrough economic growth appear to be in place, this is all currently being overshadowed by the forthcoming in-out referendum set for June 23.”
But he said the announcement of 195 new London buses for Wrightbus “provides some very welcome positive momentum” for the economy.
“Despite a sluggish recovery from a deeper recession, we at the Chamber believe there are many reasons to be positive about the future in Northern Ireland with the convergence of a variety of economic and political factors meaning that many of the key building blocks for sustainable economic growth could finally be in place.”