Mr. Frew conceded that the firm was also midful of cheaper labour costs in Eastern Europe.
He said: “The EU directive has played a major contributing factor to this closure. It is true that JTI are looking for production in a low cost area in the Eastern European states and there was always going to be that pressure on manufacturing in Northern Ireland. But I do believe that the EU directive was a massive blow and the last straw in forming the global decision to move out of Northern Ireland.”
“It is not only the jobs which will be lost from the factory floor hundreds of workers that will now be put at risk due to the loss of this company in 2017. Suppliers, sub-contractors and specialists who worked there day in day out, will all be affected by this terrible news. “
Mr Frew recalled he had worked for three different companies within JTI over a 20 year period.
He added: “I knew so many tradesmen who were working in there practically full-time. Electricians, plumbers and painters who now will have to find alternative employment and work and their companies will have to fill a gap that will now be left with the closure of this factory.
“We must try and attract more new jobs of the same calibre in Northern Ireland.”