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Ex-Harland & Wolff boss raps 'self-indulgent' MPs opposed to draft Brexit deal

Sir John Parker
Sir John Parker
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A former Harland & Wolff boss who is one of the UK's most respected industrialists has accused MPs seeking to oust Theresa May over the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement of 'self-indulgence'.

Co Down man Sir John Parker, who is a non-executive director of Airbus and former chairman of mining giant Anglo American, said he supported the draft deal.

And in an exclusive statement to the Belfast Telegraph, he hit out at political opposition to it in Westminster.

He said: "Recent actions to trigger a crisis of leadership by some Brexit MPs are totally self-indulgent as they seek to position themselves to pursue their personal ambitions. They are not acting in the interests of the British people. They are unwilling to heed the voice of business.

"We are concerned about free trade across borders, the free movement of skilled people and the health of our companies and the future for our employees.

"This negotiation, with its inevitable compromises, has delivered on the majority of the key issues and we should move ahead with any further tidying up that is achievable."

Sir John, who is originally from Bryansford, backed the campaign to remain in the EU ahead of the 2016 referendum.

That same year he also accused some Conservative Party MPs of acting out of self-interest in advocating for a Leave vote.

"If you look at their personal records and what they have done in life to earn a living, a number of them wouldn't know one end of a boardroom from the other."

He said in 2016 that being in the EU gave access to the "world's biggest single market" but the UK had the 'best of both worlds' as it had kept the pound.

As a non-executive director of Airbus, he said he confronted "puzzled" reactions from international colleagues.

"Being on the board of something like Airbus, I see it upfront. I am face-to-face with French and German board colleagues who are quite puzzled as to why we feel this way."

Sir John joined Harland & Wolff as an apprentice aged 16 and later served as its chairman and CEO, leading the yard's absorption into the private sector.

He said membership of the EU was of particular importance to NI and the Republic as it gave access to the market despite the island's position on Europe's periphery.

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