Belfast Telegraph

INM chief Pitt says innovation and digital focus key to thriving in post-EU landscape

By John Mulgrew

Businesses across Northern Ireland and the Republic should move on and focus on innovation to expand following the vote for Brexit, according to Independent News and Media (INM) chief executive Robert Pitt.

Mr Pitt said that the company - which owns the Belfast Telegraph - was a "very integrated business across the whole island of Ireland".

He was joined by a number of top business and legal experts during an event at the Reform Club in Belfast city centre yesterday, organised by the Belfast Solicitors Association and the Bar of Northern Ireland.

"Brexit is something which is foremost at our minds," Mr Pitt said.

"In Ireland, we feel safe in the EU with Britain in there.

"We feel we have a partner we can trust, who is going to represent our agenda as well.

"However, we are where we are at the moment, and we need to move on from that.

"It's probably a scary thing, Brexit, but our industry - the media - we have been living with this kind of destruction for quite a while.

"We operate in an industry where there are no trade barriers."

Mr Pitt said the company operated in a "digital space", competing with publications from across the world.

"What that has taught us is that we need to become very resilient and very innovative, because innovation is what is going to lead the way forward.

"That for us is a very key area for where we are."

He said businesses "have to move forward" following the UK vote to exit the EU.

"Northern Ireland remains, for INM, a very, very important part (of the business).

"A quarter of the island's population is in Northern Ireland."

He said businesses across Ireland would remain very committed to operations in Northern Ireland, following Brexit.

"We need to make sure our services are joined up, and digital will help you on that," Mr Pitt explained.

He said a boost in broadband and infrastructure was also key to ensuring the strength of businesses across the island of Ireland.

He added: "Together we can make this as a rich an experience as possible for anyone who wants to invest or visit in either part of our island."

Meanwhile, one top lawyer, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, said businesses must closely examine contracts in the run-up to the UK exit from the EU.

CBI director Angela McGowan said the impact of Brexit would be "absolutely enormous" for Northern Ireland, and said the future remains uncertain for trade and the freedom of movement for workers.

But she said Northern Ireland would be tackling its exit from the EU "from a relatively strong position in the economy".

And Joanne Stuart, director of development at Catalyst - formerly the Northern Ireland Science Park - said around 90% of the 160 or so businesses under its wing supported remaining part of the EU.

But she remained positive and said firms must accelerate their growth in order for them to scale in a post-Brexit landscape.

Other speakers included Danske Bank's Richard Caldwell and Chris Marshall, and Ronan Lavery QC and Ciaran O'Hare, who are both involved in the legal bid by victims campaigner Raymond McCord to halt the UK's exit from the EU.

Media lawyer Olivia O'Kane, from Carson McDowell, who hosted the event alongside Liam McCollum QC - chairman of the Bar Council - said any changes to data protection laws following Brexit were certain to have a "highly significant and commercial impact".

She said the EU had invested more than €100m in the film and television industry, and warned the loss of such subsidies could hit the sector here.

Belfast Telegraph