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Businessman says Brexit will be disastrous for North

A STRABANE business owner has predicted a disastrous future for the North after Brexit.

John Friel, director of Visual Edge located in the business park at  Strathmourne Drive, has recently retired as  chairman of one of  Northern Ireland’s largest organisations the Federation of Small  Businesses’ (FSB). He led the organisation  for over a decade.

Speaking to the Chronicle Mr Friel said that the future is not bright  for the Irish business sector.

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“If Brexit goes ahead it will be an absolute mess for businesses  here,” said Mr Friel.  “The reality is people won’t even realise how  bad it will be it until it has happened.”

Mr Friel explained that at the time of the referendum the FSB chose to  take a neutral stance on Brexit.

“I travelled all over Ireland and the UK giving talks and holding  workshops on Brexit. The FSB wanted to gather as much information from  people through surveys etc to see how each part of the country reacted.

“Most of the people I spoke to weren’t in business at all and they had  no idea or interest in Northern Ireland, particularly those based in  England and Wales.

“They looked at the issue of Northern Ireland as a nuisance, and  basically the further you went away from the border the further people  cared about it.

“The Scottish people I spoke with had a bit more consideration for the  people here, but their focus on Brexit was more about how they could  get another referendum on independence,” Mr Friel explained.

“In terms of the effects of Brexit and what it would mean for  businesses, most of them had no idea. From the information I gathered  the majority of those who voted to leave the UK voted to stop  migration into the country and were unemployed. They never thought of  the impact long term.”

When asked how he believed Northern Ireland would cope after Brexit Mr  Friel replied, “There is no doubt that it will be the worst situation  in my lifetime for businesses here.

“It will have a devastating effect on the manufacturing businesses –  big and small, and the farmers will also suffer terribly,” he continued.

“They benefited the most from being in the European Union, as they  were financially better off.”

Mr Friel continued, “The only way we can survive is if we can stay  in the Customs Union, ideally, the best situation would be if we stay  in the EU.”

Mr Friel also added that he believes the people should get the  opportunity of a second referendum.

“There is no question that businesses here benefitted greatly when we  were in the EU,” he explained.

“A second referendum would be the most democratic thing to do. The  people would now at least have a greater understanding and realistic  idea of what will happen if the UK leaves the EU. Back then they were  just being asked if they wanted in or out?”

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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