Elected representatives at Stormont and Westminster have a duty to Northern Ireland to make sure it emerges from the Brexit process with as little impact as possible a coalition business leaders and academics has claimed.
In a full page advertisement in today’s News Letter today as the Prime Minister Theresa may triggers Article 50 to begin the UK’s departure from the EU, the group warns that the province cannot be left unrepresented and urgently calls on Mrs May to spell out how Northern Ireland will be represented during in the face of the most important negotiations it and the rest of the UK has ever faced.
And the group, comprising business groups the CBI IoD and the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry alongside both Queen’s and Ulster Universities, warns that the region faces even greater impact than any other in the UK given its historic, geographic and economic position.
For better or worse, it says the negotiations will have “direct and profound implications for Northern Ireland”.
“It is, therefore, vital that Northern Ireland has a voice during the talks.
Reiterating Northern Ireland’s unique position as the only UK region with a land border with another EU state, the open letter stresses the reliance of one on the other for trade and the ever increasing levels of economic integration .
“Northern Ireland is, therefore, uniquely vulnerable to the potential changes the UK’s exit from the EU presents – particularly a UK-EU relationship governed by WTO tariffs and rules.”
Looking to the Department for the Economy’s draft Industrial Strategy, the letter warns that the goal of generating 50,000 new jobs by 2021 is threatened unless the final UK/EU deal takes into account Northern Ireland’s special circumstances.
“The Northern Ireland economy is structurally very different to that of the UK due to the legacy of the troubles. Historical factors have resulted in a regional economy that is marked by its overdependence on public sector spending and an underperforming private sector dominated by small and medium sized businesses.
“Our economic recovery remains fragile, and while much progress has been made, many long standing structural issues are only now beginning to be addressed.”
Citing the importance of sectors such as agriculture and IT and the need for continued high level education and research and development programmes within industry the letter highlights the ongoing reliance on barrier free trade and movement of people to make it all possible.
“It is our view that Northern Ireland’s special circumstances merit careful consideration and specific measures in order to protect and sustain the growth that we have all worked so hard to achieve,” the letter continues.
“As a first step, we need the return of a devolved power sharing Executive.
“Northern Ireland needs a strong and cohesive political voice in London, in Dublin and in Brussels to ensure that our society and our economy and the deepening foundations of our peace are not inadvertently damaged when the UK withdraws from the European Union.
“Leaving the EU is undoubtedly the biggest political and economic challenge that we as a region have faced this century.
“It is incumbent on all civic and political representatives to work together to ensure that the region continues to flourish in the post-Brexit world.