Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Brexit: 50% of jobs under threat warns ‘Point Harbour boss

Up to half of the entire workforce at Warrenpoint Harbour could lose their jobs if Britain quits the EU, it has been claimed.

Peter Conway, Chief Executive of Warrenpoint Harbour and the Northern Ireland representative for the British Ports Association, issued the stark warning and warned the public not to “simply sleepwalk” into a so-called Brexit.

He said such a move will have catastrophic implications for Northern Ireland as a whole, and particularly those in the border region.

Outlining the issues that would affect Warrenpoint port, he said: “Trade with our partners in the European Union is the lifeblood of this harbour.  Forty per cent of our trade is with the Republic of Ireland alone.  Trade through Warrenpoint goes north and south of the border. Imagine if the UK lost its free trade status within the EU. Why should any business bother coming to Warrenpoint if there are tariffs when they could just ship to a ROI port unencumbered?”

“I am seriously concerned about the administrative nightmare we would face,” he continued.

“I’ve been speaking to businesses across the EU and they’re already getting jittery about what an EU exit would mean for their relationship with our harbour.  At the moment we’re thriving with animal feed grain coming from France, Germany and Denmark, steel from Portugal and Spain and timber from Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  Furthermore, we export foodstuffs including dairy products, beef and poultry as well as building materials and machinery to mainland Europe.  Any customs clearance and tariffs would make us instantly less competitive and it would also be costly to process any additional customs administration,” he said.

Mr Conway claims the implications of the next month’s referendum “could not be greater or more worrying”.

“We have 200 men and women working here every day and if we lost that 40 per cent trade with the Republic of Ireland, I would expect this to have a detrimental impact on jobs at the harbour, and as many as half of jobs would be under threat. It’s a heart-breaking and deeply troubling prospect.

“This is not scaremongering or exaggeration and I agree there is room for improvement with regards to the EU’s administrative processes. For many years, the port has lobbied to get Northern Ireland the best deal possible in Brussels and we intend to continue doing that.  People shouldn’t simply sleepwalk into a so-called Brexit. The implications are catastrophic for Northern Ireland as a whole and particularly those who operate in the border region,” he added, while urging the public to vote on June 23rd to remain in the EU.