Questions left unanswered on post Brexit landscape
Despite a general welcome for her visit to the province, questions still surround Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for Brexit and its potential impact on cross border trade, business leaders have claimed.
On the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland Mrs May’s speech in Belfast on Friday set out to reassure people about the post-Brexit landscape.
Among those present was FSB policy chair Tina McKenzie who said it was “absolutely crucial” that any deal reached worked for businesses here.
“FSB welcomed a direction being set through the White Paper on the future relationship with the EU. However questions still remain on the details of the vision which was set out.
“For example, how will cross-border trade, which our members consider local, be affected if we leave the EU VAT regime?
“It was a welcome statement that she intends to avoid friction completely via the new customs plan, however it remains to be seen how smaller firms will be able to obtain ‘trusted trader status’ to ensure no additional customs issues.
“For small businesses in Northern Ireland to make preparations for the future trading environment, it is detailed questions such as these which require answers,” Ms McKenzie said.
Peter McBride, president of Retail NI, who met Mrs May in Fermanagh on Thursday described the likelihood of ‘no deal’ as disastrous.
“While far from perfect, the recent White Paper is a step forward and does represent a more realistic basis for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations,” he said.
“We welcome the commitment to a free trade area for goods which we hope will protect the integrated supply chain which is important for the retail sector.
“While this White Paper is progress, we have still a very long way to go in the negotiations. This may require further changes to give stronger protection to its commitments”
“Any prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU with no agreement would be a disaster and needs to be avoided at all costs”
Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, Aodhán Connolly said: “We need an end to the brinkmanship from both the UK government and the EU, a realisation that the practicalities of Brexit will affect Northern Ireland like nowhere else in the UK, and above all a fair deal on Brexit for the consumers of Northern Ireland.
NI already has half of the discretionary income of our GB neighbours so our shoppers simply can’t afford the price rises that customs changes and tariffs would bring.”