Belfast Telegraph

Business leaders: New EU deal will not influence vote

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland business people have said the content of any renegotiated EU deal will not influence how they intend to vote in the referendum.

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce today said 60% of senior business leaders surveyed indicated the result of the Prime Minister's current efforts would not affect their vote.

And 80% of business people here have said they intend to vote against a Brexit - compared to just 60% of their counterparts in Great Britain. The Chamber said the survey indicated that the renegotiation process - which is expected to end tomorrow - was having little impact on businesses.

Stephen McCully, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "The findings suggest that the renegotiation is having little impact on day-to-day business - or the vote of the business community.

"Many people made up their minds before knowing the outcome of negotiations, effectively discounting them as irrelevant.

"For business people, this is a question of in or out."

Fear of a world outside the EU was having an impact on business people here, with the future of farmers a particular concern, Mr McCully said.

"Those within Northern Ireland who are firmly wedded to the EU have said that Brexit will leave us stranded outside the EU, and coping with the re-emergence of a land border with the Republic of Ireland.

"We are told that trade with the EU nations will be difficult, even prohibitive, that our farmers will suffer huge financial losses with the withdrawal of EU farm subsidies.

"Our roads infrastructure programme will apparently be set back if not supported by Structural Funds and PEACE monies." But he said the pro-Brexit lobby had argued that round £3bn could be saved in EU contributions if Britain exited.

And Mr McCully - the head of electricity supplier Power NI - urged business leaders to fully acquaint themselves with both sides of the debate.

He said: "It is not only helpful for individuals, businesses and indeed business representative bodies to ensure they are fully informed of such major issues, there is actually a responsibility on us to seek out the full facts and potential scenarios."

Emotion would play a part but a decision should be "well-informed".

Belfast Telegraph