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Brexit-supporting Tory businessman describes protocol as 'game changer'

Ciga Healthcare CEO Irwin Armstrong

A Brexiteer and leading businessman says if politicians want to save the union they must concentrate on prosperity and embrace the “game changer” protocol.

Ciga Healthcare founder and CEO Irwin Armstrong said unionism is failing to recognise the potential of the post-Brexit trade arrangements to create wealth and in turn secure constitutional ties with Britain.

The one-time chair of the Northern Ireland Conservatives said unionist politicians are “hung up on the semantics of the constitutional argument and can’t see the wood for the trees”.

Read More: Talk of a crisis over the protocol masks the reality of economic opportunity

Mr Armstrong, pictured, was speaking after figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicated that Northern Ireland is prospering because of the protocol.

The Financial Times reported that the north had the “best performance across all UK nations and regions”.

Mr Armstrong said PUP councillor John Kyle “hit the nail on the head” when he said last week that the protocol presents “significant opportunities”. The Ciga chief executive disputes the claim that checks on goods arriving from Britain undermines the union. He said the only way the north’s constitutional status will change is when people vote for it.

He argues that the way to secure the union is through “increased prosperity for everybody”.

“It’s an opportunity to get foreign direct investment that we haven’t had before and a chance to turn Northern Ireland around – it’s a game changer,” he told The Irish News.

“I tell unionist politicians that the best way to secure the union is to make sure a majority of people vote for it, and if we have a booming economy and jobs then the chance of people voting for a united Ireland is significantly diminished.”

The self-styled “economic unionist” and Brexit supporter said the protocol had created a ‘best of both worlds’ situation for his Ballymena-based medical diagnostics and “opens doors we haven’t had before”.

Research published by the University of Liverpool last month concluded that unionists’ concerns about the protocol have been exaggerated by their political representatives.

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