Adding the move would also make any moves to lower the rate of Corporation Tax as pointless, Mr Farry described it as ‘a cruel irony’ that just when Northern Ireland was on the brink of lowering corporation tax, a vote to leave the EU would automatically cancel out any expected benefits.
He said: “As Employment and Learning Minister over the past five years, I have joined with others in promoting Northern Ireland as a location of inward investment. There has been considerable success in this regard.
“However, in all the meetings I have had with a range of potential investors, both large and small, I have never come across anyone arguing that Northern Ireland and the UK would be better off outside the European Union. For some, it was not a huge issue, but for others it was fundamental.
“Indeed, this is reinforced by business surveys which show that access to markets is the most important consideration in terms of decisions around investment.
“This obviously entails access to the European Single Market of 500m potential customers and a value of over £700bn.
“Recently, the rate of investment has slowed related to political instability in Northern Ireland and the uncertainty of the position regarding the European Single Market.
“The notion that the UK would quickly create its own trade and access to market agreements with Europe and indeed the other main global economies is extremely naïve. These agreements normally take years to negotiate and these other economies will naturally prioritise making their own agreements with the European Union as a whole. Trade with EU versus other parts of the world is not an either/or choice, it is a both/and imperative.
“Already Northern Ireland is at a competitive disadvantage on the island of Ireland due to the differential rate of Corporation Tax. Of course, reducing the level of Corporation Tax alone would not address this disadvantage. Further investment in skills and infrastructure are essential. But any exit from the European Union will only copper fasten this competitive advantage.
“It is a cruel irony that just at the time when Northern Ireland is on the brink of taking that step-change in terms of lowering corporation tax, a vote to leave the EU would cancel out any benefit that would arise from it, and even make such a move pointless.”