Brexit border deal must avert ‘cliff edge’ threat to business

Pictured at the at the Joint Business Council meeting are, from left, Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax KPMG, CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy and Angela McGowan, CBI NI director
Pictured at the at the Joint Business Council meeting are, from left, Johnny Hanna, partner and head of tax KPMG, CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy and Angela McGowan, CBI NI director

Any EU-UK trade deal must make adequate provision for businesses to adjust and complete comprehensive transitional arrangements as they adapt to a new trading relationship the heads of business groups north and south have claimed.

Against the background of EU negotiations, senior leaders from the CBI and Ibec said avoiding a damaging ‘cliff edge’ scenario was critical as they met on Thursday at the Joint Business Council (JBC) to discuss issues for cross-border trade.

Continuity with existing arrangements should be maintained until the point where a new relationship takes effect.

“The CBI will play a vital role in taking the concerns of Northern Irish businesses affected by Brexit to all levels of government in London and Brussels. With Northern Irish exports to the Republic of Ireland valued at £2.4bn in 2016, it is vitally important we reach a sensible agreement on the border issue which allows firms on both sides of the border to flourish,” said CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn.

“Meeting with representatives of Ibec, it is clear there is full agreement from both sides of the border on the challenges a mismanaged Brexit would pose to businesses both North and South.”

There was a real desire, she said, to work together to find solutions that would promote a “frictionless cross border trading system” that allowed businesses to avoid potential tariff and non-tariff barriers and which would be crucial to support jobs and future prosperity.

“However, any potential solution requires political stability.

“We therefore once again call on all political parties in Northern Ireland to act in the best interests of the province by restoring power-sharing institutions by the end of June.

“It has never been more important to have a fully functional Executive championing Northern Ireland’s cause.”

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy, said it was vital any deal reached recognise the “unique economic and political challenge for Ireland and include a range of specific measures to address these”.

“An early focus on avoiding a hard border with Northern Ireland is vital, but the Irish approach must also be informed by the greater economic importance of the east-west Irish-British trading relationship. Across both trade and investments, the outcome of negotiations must not disadvantage Ireland.

“Any future EU-UK deal must facilitate the closest possible, tariff-free economic, trading and business relationship between the EU and UK into the future and should be as broad, comprehensive and as ambitious as possible for both goods and services.”