EU does not want the UK to leave and succeed – Antrim company owner

‘Hotel California here we come; you can check out but you can never leave’

Irwin Armstrong of Ciga Healthcare in Ballymena, Co Antrim, exports medical testing kits all over the world.

Irwin Armstrong of Ciga Healthcare in Ballymena, Co Antrim, exports medical testing kits all over the world.

 

In Irwin Armstrong’s warehouse in Ballymena, Co Antrim, the packing cases are piled high. Printed on the outside of each box are their destinations – Qatar, the United States, Iceland.

His firm, Ciga Healthcare, manufactures medical testing kits, which it exports to more than 70 countries worldwide. Armstrong, a Conservative party member, campaigned for a Leave vote in the Brexit referendum and remains a staunch Leave supporter. His preference is for a deal, though, as he follows the latest developments at Westminster, he freely admits that he has no idea what might happen.

“There are so many possibilities,” he says. “It’s like going into a maze and trying to think where to go next, there are so many dead ends.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t think anyone does.”

Armstrong reserves judgment on his party leader Boris Johnson – he is too new to the position, he feels, to enable him to make an assessment – but he admits to being a “big fan” of Margaret Thatcher. “She was a decisive leader.”

Yet in Johnson’s opposition to the actions of parliament, they are in agreement. It means, Armstrong says, that “the EU gets to decide when and where the UK leaves the EU”.

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A deal remains Armstrong’s preference. His company’s products are developed, designed and manufactured in his factory in Ballymena. The largest town in north Antrim, the constituency is Leave territory; it returned a 62 per cent Leave vote, substantially higher than the Northern Ireland average of 44 per cent.

“I still think Brexit’s absolutely right, but a Brexit deal with Europe would be my preferred method,” he says. “Economically, I don’t understand how it’s not in the interests of the EU not to do a deal.”

‘Unknown territory’

The problem, he says, is that Brexit “has moved into completely unknown territory”.

“The Remainers, their actions are giving the EU an excuse not to do a deal. They are completely disingenuous. They’re saying they don’t want a no-deal, but they don’t want any deal. They just want to remain in the EU.”

This, he explains, undermines the British prime minister. “His original approach was that the EU had got to understand that we leave with a deal or with no-deal, but the problem with all these people who are trying to remain is that if it’s no-deal, what negotiating position does he have?

“The EU does not want the UK to leave and succeed because it would be detrimental to the survival of the EU.” If there is no-deal, “they decide what happens”.

“Hotel California here we come; you can check out but you can never leave.”

The consequences, he believes, will be felt south of the Border.

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are making a big mistake keeping the backstop in. It’s the one thing the UK doesn’t want, which means no-deal, and that’s not a good idea,” he says.

Yet he remains confident. “We [the UK] will survive Brexit if it happens, whatever way it happens, but Ireland may suffer very serious economic consequences.”

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