Cookstown seminar votes in favour of staying within the EU

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ASM Chartered Accountants held the final in a series of Brexit seminars which saw the audience once-again vote overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU.

The seminar, which forms part of ASM’s ongoing ‘Cross Border Bureau’ series, took place last week in the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown with over 80 guests in attendance.

The panel guests included Irwin Armstrong founder and CEO of CIGA Healthcare, alongside Sean Coyle, Chairman of the Keystone Group, Mark Cuskeran, Managing Director at SDC Trailers and Michael McAllister, director, ASM Chartered Accountants.

During the event, chaired by BBC’s Wendy Austin, a straw poll was done of the guests from a range of industries including farming, hospitality, professional services, retail and trade & export and the general public, which revealed that 11 people were pro-Brexit with seven stating they were undecided on their vote. The rest were in the remain camp.

Speaking at the event, Michael McAllister, Director, ASM Chartered Accountants said: “Today was our final in a series of three seminars where guests are given an opportunity to hear the opinions of some of our leading business people on issues likely to affect Northern Ireland if we leave the EU.

“This morning’s mid-Ulster event gave a very different picture of business people’s views from our Belfast and Newry events, where we had only one guest at each event in favour of Brexit. At this event there were a lot more people were in favour or undecided, with their view being that they felt they would be able to secure better export deals, it could help control the migrant issue as well as improve our trade and export with the rest of the world.”

Irwin Armstrong who is a pro-Brexit supporter said that he felt that leaving the EU would almost certainly bring opportunities for Northern Ireland to trade better with rest of the world. On the Cross Border trade issue, he said he had been doing that for many years and that CIGA Healthcare also trades around the world. He said that all of the systems are now electronic, and that this wouldn’t change.

He said he felt we don’t need border controls, and that ‘there is so much nonsense being talked around this, we won’t need borders. Before we joined EU there were no border controls.’

On the immigration issue Mr Irwin said he was against uncontrolled immigration – not immigration. He said that immigration is a very serious problem in GB – services and infrastructure don’t support the influx of migrants. He said a points system similar to Australia would help to control the issue and stop it getting out of hand. He also said that he wants to see a well paid workforce with a good quality of life, which he feels a Brexit would help achieve.

Sean Coyle, Chairman of the Keystone Group, said that he is firmly in the stay in Europe camp. He said he was convinced if we leave the EU the value of sterling will fall and our buying power will be reduced.

He said a smaller proportion of his company’s business is export –South of Ireland and mainland Europe – but most currently goes into UK. They buy a lot of their materials from Europe. He said that a Brexit would have a hugely negative impact on Keystone and their staff.

Mark Cuskeran, Managing Director at SDC Trailers, said that he was in favour of staying in the EU. He said that he felt that Brexit would bring huge amounts of uncertainty to business, which no one wants. He said he felt that there would undoubtedly be a recession. There would be the introduction of border controls with Northern Ireland affected much more than anywhere else.

He said that a Brexit would result in an even more unwieldy trade system with Northern Ireland having to do separate trade agreements with each country meaning the Euro and the sterling reducing in value.

ASM Chartered Accountants has grown rapidly since its launch in 1995 and is now one of the largest accounting and management consultancy firms in Ireland, with offices in Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk, Dungannon, Magherafelt and Newry. The company’s 170 strong team comprises specialists in a range of accountancy disciplines and related skills that include: corporate finance, audit and accounting, internal audit and forensic accounting.