Industry head warns against EU exit

An executive of a leading meat processor and head of a food strategy board has warned against the UK’s exit from the EU. 

Announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, the public will be asked in a referendum: ‘Should the UK remain a member of the European Union?’. However, Tony O’Neill, Northern Ireland Agri-Food Strategy Board chairman and group deputy chief executive of Dunbia, said it would be a “disaster”.

O’Neill said: “Leaving the European Union would be a total disaster for the agri-food industry, in particular in Northern Ireland. Over the past five years, rural communities here have benefited from upwards of £500 million from Europe and we haven’t really exploited effectively the range of EU funding programmes available to our agri-food industry.”

He suggested change rather than exit from the EU. “We should be working within Europe to sort out the things we don’t like or aren’t working properly, such as the bureaucracy, imperfect single market and weak currency. Divorces are often messy and a British withdrawal is likely to be very acrimonious and could impact adversely living standards in both the UK and remaining EU members. British membership of the EU has hardly been wholehearted over the past 44 years. It could mean an angry EU could drive a hard business bargain with Britain.”

The referendum is expected to take place before the end of 2017.

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