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Leaving the EU would 'significantly weaken' the financial services sector in Northern Ireland, warns City Minister

On a trip to Belfast yesterday the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, cautioned that leaving the EU could severely damage the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services industry and damage Belfast’s position as a financial hub.

The Economic Secretary dispeled the myth that leaving the EU would simply be a problem for the City in London and that the wider UK financial sector, in places like Belfast, would not be affected.

She highlighted the importance for staying in the EU to a sector that plays a crucial role in Northern Ireland’s economy. The financial sector employs around 21,000 people with a further 15,000 in related professional services across Northern Ireland.

The UK’s membership of the EU has allowed Belfast to become a major financial hub with global institutions in banking, insurance, asset management and capital markets investing and expanding in Northern Ireland. Major employers like Citi, the Allstate Corp, First Derivatives and Liberty Mutual are among the firms that have made major investments.

Being a member of the EU has meant that the UK has full access to the single market- a market of over 500 million customers and an economy over five times bigger than the UK’s.

In financial services, access to the single market helps the UK sector to export over £20 billion of financial services to the EU. This is around 33% of the UK’s total financial and insurance and pensions services exports.

New Treasury analysis shows 285,000 jobs across the UK are linked to financial services exports to the EU. 100,000 financial services jobs are directly linked to these exports, and a further 185,000 jobs are linked to the indirect demand generated in the wider economy as a result of financial services exports to the EU.

Leaving the EU would put tens of thousands of these jobs at risk.

Around half the world’s largest financial firms have chosen to base their European headquarters in the UK. In 2014, the amount of investment in the UK’s financial services sector, by companies based across the world reached £280 billion - 17% of this was from the EU. Across all sectors of the economy, almost three quarters of foreign direct investors said the UK’s access to the EU market was an important factor behind the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for investment.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, said yesterday:

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.

The financial services industry in Northern Ireland is going from strength to strength and is great success story. It makes an important contribution to the local economy and employs around 21,000 people with a further 15,000 in related professional services.

Let’s not put all of this at risk on the 23rd of June.

While in Belfast the Economic Secretary visited 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.

Here she met some of the team to talk through the bespoke projects that are directly benefitting from EU funding.

The Economic Secretary also gave the keynote speech at the launch of UKTI Centres of Excellence event which champions Belfast’s status as a financial hub. She spoke about the government’s drive to geographically rebalance the economy, the importance of financial services as an employer across the UK, and the strengths of Northern Ireland as a home for investment.

The day finished with a roundtable with industry leaders where they will discuss the EU referendum and what it means for financial services in Belfast.

The Economic Secretary is undertaking a series of visits across the UK, including to Edinburgh, Bangor and Chester, to showcase how the success of the UK’s financial services hubs is dependent on the UK remaining in the EU.


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