Britain's last tobacco factory to close as JTI shuts Ballymena plant in County Antrim

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Britain's last tobacco factory is set to shut its doors permanently with the loss of around 900 jobs.

The Ballymena plant in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is a major employer in the area.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) announced proposals today to restructure several of its European facilities, citing a tough economic environment and strict EU legislation.

"The challenging economic environment, excise tax pressure coupled with illegal trade has triggered industry volume contraction in a number of key European countries," JTI said.

High tobacco duty and a rising black market have hit industry volume across Europe, according to JTI. The need to comply with the EU's tobacco products directive which restricts the producer's choices in terms of product packaging is also taking its toll.

From 2016 to 2017, JTI forecasts cigarette pack production at Ballymena to fall by 32 per cent. JTI has begun consultations to change its product sourcing, which could lead to sites in Northern Ireland, Belgium moving to Poland and Romania.

Ian Paisley Jr, MP for North Antrim said:

I am not in the habit of scaremongering or crying wolf. For the past five years since I became Member of Parliament for North Antrim I have warned about the serious unintended consequences for jobs in North Antrim if government both locally nationally and in Europe continues to over regulate the already heavily regulated tobacco industry.

Indeed, in July 2012 I warned that 1000 jobs were under threat. Unfortunately those warnings fell on deaf ears. This was despite me arranging over twenty on site visits of politicians from all parties and the government to see the impact more regulations would have on jobs.

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