Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Merchant Hotel owner says Brexit plan is 'an opportunity to be grasped' as he picks up Telegraph property award

By Ryan McAleer

One of Northern Ireland's most prominent hospitality figures has said businesses and voters should never forgive the DUP if it fails to grasp what he said was the opportunity proffered by Theresa May's draft Brexit deal.

Bill Wolsey, managing director of the Beannchor group, said Arlene Foster's party had scored "a spectacular own-goal" over its opposition to the deal being championed by the under-pressure Prime Minister.

The businessman, whose hospitality portfolio includes The Merchant Hotel, Bullitt, the Dirty Onion and the Little Wing franchise, was speaking as he was named Personality of the Year at yesterday's Belfast Telegraph Property Awards at the Crowne Plaza in Belfast.

In a hard-hitting speech in front of a room of around 600 people from across the property industry, Mr Wolsey urged businesses to speak out.

"Now we have an opportunity to do something. We need to encourage our politicians to grasp that opportunity. This is no longer a time to keep our head down," he said.

"We have an opportunity because of Brexit to have a foot in both camps. What an opportunity we have for business and when business is strong, that makes the community strong and it's good for all.

"Unfortunately we're represented by politicians, some who have the political vision of Blind Bart, and some who are weighed down heavily by prejudice from the past.

"I think we, as a business community, and the voters of the future, should never forgive them if they don't take this opportunity to improve the lot for all in this country."

The speech followed comments from DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson suggesting that businesses had failed to fully understand the implications of the draft EU withdrawal paper.

The list of groups here backing the deal to date includes the Ulster Farmers' Union, CBI, NI Chamber and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Pictured l-r: Sarah Little, Bill Wolsey, Petra Wolsey and Gail Walker. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Pictured l-r: Sarah Little, Bill Wolsey, Petra Wolsey and Gail Walker. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 17. Property Personality of the Year Ð Bill Wolsey Bill Wolsey Director of Beannchor Group Presenter: Sarah Little INM Publishing Director, NI Pictured l-r: Pamela Ballantine, Bill Wolsey, and Sarah Little. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Property Personality of the Year Ð Bill Wolsey Bill Wolsey Director of Beannchor Group with his wife Petra Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Property Personality of the Year Ð Bill Wolsey Bill Wolsey Director of Beannchor Group with his wife Petra Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 17. Property Personality of the Year Bill Wolsey Bill Wolsey Director of Beannchor Group Presenter: Sarah Little INM Publishing Director, NI Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Chris and Claire Gordon pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Craig Service, Laura Philips and Derek Wilson pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 James Burleigh, Kathryn Barry and Conor Mooney pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Aaron Dickie, Alastair Chambers, Colin White and Les McCracken pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Anna Maria McAlindon, Adrian Kerr, Fiona McFall, Alison Nesbitt, Mark Thompson and Kathryn McIvor pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Brendan Dorrian, Gerarcd McCann and Brendan Wilson pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Karen McGarvey and Pamela Ballantine pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Philip Smyth, David McIlroy, Pamela Ballantine, Thomas McIlroy, Steven Rossetto pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Ross Adams and Joanne McGillan pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Richie Lavery, Moyah Lavery and Mark McBride pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Petra and Bill Wolsey pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Colin and Jayne Logan pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Fiona Rice, Sandra McCullough, Julie Atkinson, Samantha Shannon and Naomi Traynor pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Fiona Hutchinson, Chris Millar and Sonia Millar pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Stephen Gray and John Minnis pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Colin and Jayne Logan pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Gemma McStravick, Julie McBride, Kevin Caldwell, Una Lavery, Davcid Fusco, Anne Smyth and Paddy McKarney pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Helmut Elstnar, Claire Martin, Graeme Morris, Marina McBride and Kevin Flanner pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Fergal Rooney and Colm McGurk pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Glynis Hobson, Mark Graham and Victoria Dunne pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Michael and Nicole McKervey pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Petra and Bill Wolsey pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Curtis Barrett, Heather Barrett, Brian Barrett and David Startin pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Ian Craig, Andrew Frazer and Ciaran McGivern pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Fergal Rooney and Colm McGurk pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Mary Kim Doherty, Emma Cooper and Barbara Creed pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Graham Pierce, Catherine Cooney, Celia Worthington, Alan Nappin and John Gilmartin pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Clare and John Lavery pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Clare and John Lavery pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Ian Craig, Andrew Frazer and Ciaran McGivern pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Carine Fullerton, Julie-Ann Murphy, Kelly Porter and Lynn Taylor pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Carine Fullerton, Julie-Ann Murphy, Kelly Porter and Lynn Taylor pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Templeton Robinson directors and staff pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Sarah Little, Paul McErlean and Karen McGarvey pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Mary Kim Doherty, Emma Cooper and Barbara Creed pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 James Fairley and Victor Branco pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Kevin Caldwell, Anne Smyth, Sarah Little and Mark Corry pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 The CPS team pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Shauna Hammond and Ciara Mathews pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Kevin Caldwell, Gail Walker and Anne Smyth pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Bethany Telford, Jill McCormick, Gary Adair and Sian Wells pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Shauna Hammond and Ciara Mathews pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 4. Property Deal of the Year Presenting Award: Neil Logan, Wilson Nesbitt Winner: Simon Brien Residential Highly Commended: Savills L-R Pamela Ballantine, Simon Brien and Neil Logan. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 1. Award: Commercial Fit-Out of the Year Presenting Award: Billy Wallace, Managing Partner and Chairman of WH Stephens Winner: RPP Architects Ltd Highly Commended: McCue Crafted Fit L-R Pamela Ballantine, Mark Higgins, Harry McConnell and Billy Wallace. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 2. Award: Best Interior Design of the Year Presenting Award: Mark Corry, Marketing Manager of Harry Corry Winner: Atelier Interior Design L-R Pamela Ballantine, Mark Corry, James Fairley and Victor Branco Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 2. Award: Best Interior Design of the Year Presenting Award: Mark Corry, Marketing Manager of Harry Corry Winner: Atelier Interior Design L-R Pamela Ballantine, Mark Corry, James Fairley and Victor Branco Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 The team from Hagan Homes pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Paul McErlean and Professor Alastair Adair pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 3. Award: Commercial Development of the Year Presenting Award: Dawson McConkey, Partner and Head of Real Estate of Carson McDowell Winner: Karl Asset Management Highly Commended: Lacuna Developments L-R Pamela Ballantine, Aran Blackbourne, Simon Moon and Dawson McConkey. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 12. Residential Development of the Year Presenting Award: Clare Stokes, Corporate Banking Manager, First Trust Bank Winner: Lotus Homes L-R Pamela Ballantine, Samantha Shannon, Paul O'Rourke and Clare Stokes. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 7. Young Architect of the Year Presenting Award: David and Daniel McIlroy, RTU Winner: Fergal Rainey - McGurk Architects Ltd Highly Commended: Jonathan Spence - Doherty Architects L-R Pamela Ballantine, David McIlroy and Fergal Rainey. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 6. Architectural Practice of the Year (Residential) Presenting Award: Ben Turtle, Director of Savills Winner: BGA Architects Ltd L-R Pamela Ballantine, John Lavery and Ben Turtle. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 10. Best Property Marketing of the Year Presenting Award: Brian Barrett, Managing Director, Barrett Group Winner: Hagan Homes L-R Pamela Ballantine, John Toner, Jim Burke and Brian Barrett. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 9. Innovative Use of Smarthome Technology Presenting Award: James Burleigh Commercial Manager of Openreach Northern Ireland Winner: Portland 88 by Barnett Developments L-R Pamela Ballantine, Ryan Dougan, Guil Nascimento, and James Burleigh. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 8. Young Agent of the Year Presenting Award: Anna-Marie McAlinden, Director of Mills Selig Winner: Natasha Rodgers - Rodgers & Finney Highly Commended: Jordana Stoney - John Minnis Estate Agents L-R Pamela Ballantine, Anna-Marie McAlinden and Natasha Rodgers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 15. Residential Estate Agency of the Year (Sole Branch) Presenting Award: Graeme Norris, Regional Manager, Progressive Building Society Winner: Colin Graham Residential Highly Commended: Rodgers & Finney L-R Pamela Ballantine, Graeme Norris and Colin Graham. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 14. Commercial Estate Agency of the Year Presenting Award: Mark Blair, Partner, A&L Goodbody Winner: Lisney Highly Commended: Osborne King L-R Pamela Ballantine, Declan Flynn and Mark Blair. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 13. Residential Lettings Agency of the Year Presenting Award: Michael Wilson, Associate for TLT Winner: Pinpoint Property Ltd L-R Pamela Ballantine, Nicholas Brennan and Michael Wilson. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 11. Best Property Management Company Presenting Award: John McMahon, Managing Director of Keystone Law Winner: Simon Brien Residential Highly Commended: Gordon Estates Management L-R Pamela Ballantine, John McMahon, Rory Gibson and Thomas O'Doherty. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2018 Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2018 in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast. 14. Commercial Estate Agency of the Year Presenting Award: Mark Blair, Partner, A&L Goodbody Winner: Lisney Highly Commended: Osborne King L-R Pamela Ballantine, Declan Flynn and Mark Blair. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Leaving the stage to rapturous applause and a chorus of congratulations yesterday, Mr Wolsey doubled down on his criticism of politicians, putting the DUP firmly in his cross-hairs.

"I think this has been a spectacular own-goal by the DUP and rather than understanding that, they're compounding this mistake," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I would be supportive of what's on the table.

"It was obviously a very difficult task that was put in front of Theresa May, because the Brexiteers had absolutely no plan at all.

"She has tried to battle through with a right-wing that won't listen to anything. What she has come up with, while not perfect, is a compromise which I think Northern Ireland has done very well out of.

"This gives us an opportunity to make us an attractive investment opportunity for multinational companies.

"Why our politicians don't accept that, I don't know. It's one that should be grabbed with both hands."

Mr Wolsey said he believed his position reflected that of most businesses.

"I think if you asked any of the 550 people in there, would they grasp this opportunity? Absolutely yes," he added.

"They wouldn't be prevaricating and talking about bringing down Theresa May, they would be welcoming this with open arms.

"Everybody thinks this deal is far better than no deal. It's better than we could have expected and going forward, we can perhaps build on the unique geographical position we have."

He also rejected the DUP's argument that the draft withdrawal deal would undermine Northern Ireland's position in the Union.

"History tells us that any country that has full employment and a contented people, they are not going to break that status quo," he said.

"This is not weakening the Union, if anything it's probably strengthening the Union.

"How the DUP can fail to see this is beyond me, and probably beyond most of the people in that room."

Belfast Telegraph

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