Northern Ireland’s industry leaders will look to Boris Johnson for support during what will be the most significant period of change and uncertainty the UK has faced in a generation, a leading business organisation has said.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was speaking following the former foreign secretary’s election as Tory Party leader yesterday.
Stressing that there is “no appetite” for a no-deal Brexit, she called on the new PM to have “a pro-business approach from the offset”.
“The new prime minister takes up office at a time of deep frustration for the business community. Industry leaders will therefore look to him for support on business and the economy as we traverse the most significant period of change and uncertainty the United Kingdom has faced in a generation,” she said.
“Companies want to see a pro-business approach from the offset. Specifically, he must deliver a sensible and pragmatic plan to break the Brexit impasse, demonstrating that the new government is fully committed to avoiding a messy and disorderly exit on October 31. Whilst there is absolutely no appetite for a no-deal exit, the government must simultaneously step up and provide businesses with the urgent support they need to plan for all scenarios.”
Ms McGregor added: “At a time when business confidence is low, the new prime minister must also take immediate steps to inject momentum and confidence into the UK economy, working with businesses over the coming weeks and months to create the best possible environment for long-term growth.
“In Northern Ireland, a firm commitment to restoring the power-sharing institutions at Stormont would also be warmly welcomed. While businesses here face one of the most uncertain periods in history, the protracted absence of a functioning Executive further compounds their unique challenges. As a matter of priority, the prime minister must do everything possible to see the institutions restored. The stakes are high, and swift and decisive action is needed.”
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said Mr Johnson must “hit the ground running in securing a Brexit withdrawal deal”.
“A no-deal is simply not an option that should even be considered given the economic devastation it would cause Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Mr Johnson should take a hands-on role with the current political talks to restore devolution. We can’t continue much longer without a functioning government given the huge challenges ahead with education, business rates and infrastructure investment.”
Mr Roberts said he hopes the new PM will “make an early visit to Northern Ireland and engage with the business community on these issues”.
Meanwhile, John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, congratulated Mr Johnson on his election and urged his government and the EU to “engage constructively” in Brexit negotiations in order to avoid a no-deal.