Northern Ireland

EU referendum: Invest NI boss 'excited' by Brexit opportunities

Alastair Hamilton
Image caption Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the Brexit vote would release his agency from the state aid "challenges" of EU membership

The chief executive of Northern Ireland's inward investment agency has told the BBC he is "excited" by some of the opportunities presented by Brexit.

Alastair Hamilton said it would release his agency, Invest NI, from the state aid "challenges" of EU membership.

A tightening of rules in 2014 reduced Invest NI's ability to offer grants.

Mr Hamilton said the "vast majority" of firms that invested in Northern Ireland in recent years had not come for EU market access.

He was speaking from the United States, where he said two companies were close to committing to an investment.

He told the BBC's Evening Extra programme that the firms had been "interested" in the outcome of the referendum but not deterred.

Mr Hamilton also criticised an Ulster Bank analysis which suggested uncertainty around the UK's trading relationship could deter investment.

He said it was "completely disconnected from our sales proposition".

Earlier, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said many of the largest recent investments had been service centres for the headquarters of UK and US firms and were not reliant on EU market access.

Before the referendum, major Northern Ireland employers including Bombardier, Moy Park and Citi said they would prefer a remain vote.

When Brazilian firm JBS bought Moy Park in 2015, its chief executive said it "definitely will be for us a platform for further expansion in the European market going forward".

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