Northern Ireland

Brexit: Wrightbus founder supports UK exit from EU

William Wright
Image caption William Wright said he believed that the UK could strike better trade agreements outside the EU

The founder of bus-maker Wrightbus has become the first major business figure in Northern Ireland to support a UK exit from the European Union (EU).

William Wright told the Ballymena Guardian newspaper: "I am totally in favour of getting out."

He is a director of the Wrights Group which turns over almost £300m a year and employs more than 1,500 people.

Chief executives of other major local employers, such as Norbrook and Moy Park, support staying in the EU.

The UK is holding a referendum on its EU membership on 23 June.

EU referendum: All you need to know

Last week the chief executive of the Wrights Group, Mark Nodder, said the company did not have a corporate position on the referendum but "each of us has our own personal view".

Replacement support

The EU is not a major export market for the Wrights Group, though Dublin Bus is a significant customer.

Mr Wright said he believed that the UK could strike better trade agreements outside the EU.

He added that farmers do not need to "fear an exit" as the UK government would put in place support measures after the withdrawal of EU subsidies.

Image caption William Wright met the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall when the couple visited a Wrightbus factory in 2013

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the only major party supporting an exit with Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Alliance all in favour of remaining.

Last year, Mr Wright signed general election nomination papers for the successful DUP candidate in North Antrim, Ian Paisley.

The party also held its Westminster manifesto launch at a Wrightbus factory.

More on this story