Business

How an EU exit could impact on north's property market

Conor Devine

ONE key area for consideration amid the whole Brexit debate is how the property market in Northern Ireland will be affected.

I spent a few days in London last month talking to a number of property investment funds who already have capital deployed here - and they were very clear that if we are to exit the EU, Northern Ireland will be off the agenda with regards to them deploying any further funding.

I found their views alarming. Yet most would agree that with the dearth of bank funding available for the property market right now, and for the foreseeable future, the last thing we need is for UK funders to pull back from investing in the local economy.

Our business has been working on securing £20m of investment finance for a local investment company. The project was initially well received in London, but we recently got word that the funders have declined the opportunity with one of the reasons being the uncertainty around Brexit.

The main issue seems to be that the leave campaign has no clear plan, and without it, given the context and fragility of the local economy, many people take the view that it's better going with the devil you know.

Only a few weeks ago Bombardier vice president and general manager Michael Ryan, whose business is situated in the DUP heartland of east Belfast, sent an email to his employees encouraging them to vote to stay in the EU. The company openly stated that remaining in the EU was much more beneficial to their business and yet the DUP continue to encourage us to vote for a Brexit.

So if you live, say, on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, and have a family of five and your boss is more or less telling you to vote to stay in the EU as your job is much safer, I know which way I would be voting.

If the leave campaign is to be taken seriously, then they are running out of time to convince people to buy into any of their ideas. The closer we get to referendum day on June 23 the more obvious it is becoming that for the leave campaigners the debate appears to be all about sovereignty and not particularly about what is best for our people economically.

Our politicians need to listen to the business community and support what is most advantageous for the economy rather than their own party affiliations.

:: Conor Devine (conor@gdpni.com) is principal of GDP Partnership (@GDP_Partnership) which provides services across asset management, bank mediation, restructuring, corporate finance and real estate advice

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