Companies across Northern Ireland face a significant challenge to to their existence if the UK is plunged into a ‘no deal Brexit’ Ireland and Northern Ireland’s leading business groups have warned ahead of the expected Westminster vote.
Such an outcome would have “devastating economic consequences for the all-island economy, which must be avoided”, claimed the Ibec-CBI NI Joint Business Council.
A ‘no deal’ would immediately put jobs and businesses at risk, and jeopardise years of positive economic development and integration across the island it added.
The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement includes comprehensive provisions to limit disruption to the all-island economy post-Brexit, including a transition period and the ‘Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol that forms the ‘backstop’.
In contrast, a ‘no deal’ outcome would result in an immediate and unprecedented economic shock.
For business on the island of Ireland the backstop provides a ‘safety-net’ insurance policy, which would ideally be rendered obsolete by a comprehensive EU-UK agreement on their future relationship involving arrangements better than the ‘backstop’ the joint statement claims.
“Many firms across Northern Ireland simply could not cope with a no-deal Brexit,” said CBI NI director, Angela McGowan.
“Not only would it do significant harm to jobs, investment and living standards but it would put at risk the all-island economic model that has been an important factor in driving local prosperity.
“Moreover, it brings with it unnecessary risk to the Good Friday Agreement, which has been the foundation of social, economic and political progress.
“The assurances that business have been crying out for are broadly provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement – ignoring that in pursuit of no-deal isn’t just economic recklessness, it’s an affront to rational thinking.”
Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is vital to allow trade talks to progress, the group has claimed, stressing the vital importance of facilitating frictionless trade and ‘just-in-time’ supply chains to continue operating post-Brexit.
For businesses on either side of the border and especially SMEs that predominantly trade in the all-island economy, the statement said it was vital that the future relationship should include an ambitious deal on services.
“Protecting the achievements of the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement and the resulting all-island economic benefits is vital,” said Ibec director of policy and public affairs, Fergal O’Brien.
“Business also recognises that the Single Market has been a game-changer for the dynamic of the all-island economy.
“The withdrawal deal includes important provisions to minimise economic disruption and avoid a hard border.
“A ‘No deal’ outcome would profoundly exacerbate, rather than resolve the many difficult challenges that Brexit presents.
“These challenges would remain, but would have to be addressed in a climate of political chaos and economic upheaval.
“It is not a prospect that any responsible politician should countenance.”
:: See page 22 for the views of Manufacturing NI chief executive Stephen Kelly writing for the News Letter.