Brexit 'would harm Belfast's status as financial services hub'
THE north's currently burgeoning financial services sector would "significantly weaken" in the event of a Brexit, a top government official has warned.
Harriett Baldwin, economic secretary to the British Treasury is in Belfast as part of a drive to caution that leaving the EU could "severely damage" the competitiveness of the UK's financial services industry.
She said a UK exit from the EU would be an issue for the entire UK financial sector, not just the City in London.
The financial sector employs around 21,000 people in the north and a further 15,000 people in related professional services.
Ms Baldwin said: "This country faces a fundamental choice – whether to remain a member of a reformed EU, or to travel an uncertain path.
“A vote to stay will protect jobs in Northern Ireland, promote economic growth and ensure that Belfast remains a growing global financial centre.
"While a vote to leave would significantly weaken the UK's financial services industry, with consequences for Northern Ireland's status as a financial hub.
"Let's not put all of this at risk on the 23rd of June.”
The Northern Ireland financial sector includes several major global firms including Citi, Allstate, First Derivatives and Liberty Mutual.
The UK as a whole exports around £20 billion of financial services to the EU - around a third of the UK's total financial and insurance and pensions services exports.
Around half the world's largest financial firms have chosen to base their European headquarters in the UK
While in Belfast the Economic Secretary is visiting the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), which has benefitted from EU funding. The centre houses the Capital Markets Collaborative Network (CMCN) which engages both local universities and seeks to position Northern Ireland as a global centre of excellence for R&D in capital markets engineering.
The Economic Secretary will also give the keynote speech at the launch of UKTI Centres of Excellence event which champions Belfast's status as a financial hub.