US businessman Costello battling for Northern Ireland to keep seats in Europe
Influential Irish-American businessman Frank Costello has revealed that he has been working to try to ensure that Northern Ireland retains at least two seats in the European Parliament - even after the UK leaves the EU.
In an exclusive interview published in today's Belfast Telegraph, the Boston native, who has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for the past 20 years, also warned that Brexit could radically reduce Northern Ireland's attractiveness to US investors.
Speaking to journalist Lindy McDowell, Dr Costello explained how he saw the post-Brexit MEP seats coming about.
"I've been working with colleagues, pushing the idea of maintaining at least two of the three seats in the European Parliament," he said.
"The argument for that is that there is still the Good Friday Agreement and there is still European money coming in, so there should be a voice providing representation in the EU for Northern Ireland, not simply having the Irish Republic dominate that.
"You've got six seats on the European Parliament from Cyprus and that's a divided jurisdiction."
Currently, the anti-Brexit Sinn Fein party has one MEP, while the pro-Brexit DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party have one each.
Dr Costello described Brexit as "a collective act of self-harm by the UK", and predicted that inward investment would be damaged by any post-Brexit instability.
"Worldwide capital will always look to places that are stable and steady. That's a fact of life," he said.
"There are plenty of places investment can go to.
"And the fundamental thing, as I say, is that capital investment is a coward.
"Companies have to get the best secure investment.
"Northern Ireland has been doing well in financial services. A lot of things have been attractive, so the trick is to keep that attractiveness," the businessman said.
Mr Costello, who served in the Clinton administration, offered a downbeat assessment of Northern Ireland's post-Brexit prospects.
"We created a very useful venture capital industry in Northern Ireland from zero from the 1990s on.
"People take that for granted. It took time to stabilise and now, to have the rug pulled from under that is not good.
"Northern Ireland previously had the ability to sell itself as an entry point to the EU. In future it's going to be a lot tougher."