Northern Ireland

EU referendum: Leave vote could affect Belfast finance jobs, says Treasury minister

Flags Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Business for Britain group said the comments were "doom-laden nonsense"

A vote for the UK to leave the European Union could damage Belfast's developing role as a financial services hub, a treasury minister has said.

Firms such as Citi, CME and Allstate are major employers in the city.

Harriett Baldwin, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said a so-called Brexit would weaken the UK's financial services industry, with consequences for Northern Ireland.

The Business for Britain group said the comments were "doom-laden nonsense".

Myth

Mrs Baldwin is due to visit Northern Ireland on Thursday for a meeting with business leaders.

She said it was "a myth" that leaving the EU would simply be a problem for the City of London.

Chancellor George Osborne has already warned of potential job losses in the financial services industry if Britain leaves the EU, claiming that 285,000 jobs in the sector are linked to business with EU countries.

His estimates are based on a Treasury report showing 100,000 financial services jobs are directly linked to EU exports, with another 185,000 jobs reliant on related indirect demand.

Meddling

The Treasury analysis is based on official data on the total number of jobs in financial and insurance.

Jeffrey Peel, the Northern Ireland chairman of Business for Britain, said financial services could "thrive" outside the EU.

He said EU "meddling" is designed to undermine the UK's primacy in financial services.

"But, the fact is, London has the market, the skills and the firms to be the most important financial trading centre in the world," he added.

"Northern Ireland companies feed into this incredibly powerful ecosystem.

"It's a great pity that a UK government minister belittles our skills and our importance in financial services rather than applauding our success."

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