Belfast Telegraph

Economic risks of an exit far outweigh any potential gains

By Joanne Stuart, director of development at Catalyst Inc

The EU referendum is a hugely important debate, one in which it has been difficult to differentiate fact from supposition. But for me, there has been no case made that gives me the confidence that any risks will be outweighed by the perceived benefits.

At Catalyst Inc, we are focused on the growth of the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland, a sector that is now 50% bigger than it was in 2009. A sector, where exports account for over 85% of sales.

A sector with 50% premium on salaries and productivity compared to the Northern Ireland average.

In a recent survey of companies located at Catalyst Inc, 70% of respondents are forecasting moderate or rapid growth in the next 12 months.

When asked about how they will vote in the EU referendum, over 80% were for remaining in the EU.

This was similar to a survey of IoD NI members, with almost three-quarters of those surveyed wanting the UK to remain in the EU.

Organisations reside in the global business community, and we need to draw the good out of every territory, be that Europe, Asia, or the Americas.

In recent meetings with business people from the Asian and American blocs, it was clear they were looking for kindred spirits within the EU bloc - if not us, they won't have far to look.

I don't think that Europe is perfect and I want to see progressive reform, but I believe that this can only be achieved by being at the top table.

A Remain vote will give renewed confidence and credibility to the UK. We also have something to offer back to Europe. The UK perspective can help decrease unnecessary bureaucracy particularly in the area of improving processes for innovation support.

Working with innovative companies on a daily basis, I see the real confidence and growing momentum as we have turned the corner on a very difficult recession.

With a new Executive in place, the reduction of corporation tax on the horizon, Northern Ireland is well placed to benefit from increased investment both from the growth of exports by our indigenous companies and by international companies who see us as the gateway to Europe.

Why would we risk that? We have first hand experience of the impact of instability. Why would we willingly walk into at least two years of uncertainty while negotiating our exit from Europe, especially when there is no precedent?

Of course, there is a need to take risks, and it is the businesses that are able to take calculated risk to make informed decisions that are successful. When applied to the EU debate, just the economic risks alone of leaving heavily outweigh any perceived gains.

Ultimately for me the issue is not just about my generation but about creating a secure future for our children's and grandchildren's future.

I believe that can only be achieved by being a major player in the EU. I shall be voting Remain on Thursday.

  • Joanne Stuart is director of development at Catalyst Inc (the trading name of the Northern Ireland Science Park group of companies)

Belfast Telegraph

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