Politicians must not let NI ‘sleep walk into no deal Brexit’

IoD chair Gordon Milligan, second left, with, from left,  Dale Guest, director with main sponsor Bank of Ireland, guest speaker, Glen Dimplex chair Martin McCourt, and  Catriona Gibson, managing partner,  associate sponsor Arthur Cox
IoD chair Gordon Milligan, second left, with, from left, Dale Guest, director with main sponsor Bank of Ireland, guest speaker, Glen Dimplex chair Martin McCourt, and Catriona Gibson, managing partner, associate sponsor Arthur Cox

Politicians risk an ‘unforgivable dereliction of duty’ if they fail to reach agreement to avoid a no deal Brexit a busienss leader has claimed.

Speaking at the organisation’s Annual Dinner, Institute of Directors NI chair Gordon Milligan said there could be no excuse for allowing Northern Ireland to “sleep walk into a no deal Brexit”, by running down the clock on negotiations.

The event, sponsored by Bank of Ireland and law firm Arthur Cox, was attended by more than 400 business leaders at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast.

“If we tumble over the cliff edge without a parachute, a no-deal Brexit is about a lot more than trade,” Mr Milligan said.

“It would see many legal obligations and definitions lapse immediately while also throwing in doubt the status of EU citizens in UK and UK citizens in EU.

“A no deal Brexit has the potential to severely impact people’s lives and would represent a serious dereliction of duty.

He said it was time to bring an end to Brexit brinkmanship and urgently seek a way to secure a comprehensive future relationship with the EU.

“It will be unforgivable if the politicians in Westminster unleash the havoc that results in us sleep walking into a no deal Brexit by playing down the clock like a game of countdown.”

Mr Milligan, who took up the post of IoD NI chair in March last year, also used the event speech to call for renewed efforts to restore the Northern Ireland Executive.

In the day that Prime Minster Theresa May met local political leaders as part of her drive to secure a Brexit deal he said: “If the aim of government is to mothball Stormont, it has been successful.”

“It has been well publicised that the political vacuum has resulted in a logjam of more than £2 billion of infrastructure projects.

“For those of us in the business community, focused on creating jobs and wealth for the good of everyone, we are just getting on with the task at hand.”

Permanent secretaries of Stormont-based departments have been granted powers to take ministerial decisions, but this is could only ever be a temporary arrangement said Mr Millagan, deputy chief executive of Translink.

“Countless projects including the North South Interconnector and the new Belfast Transport Hub remain in limbo.

“A long-term solution must be found to allow these economically significant projects to progress, and fast.

“In the meantime, business leaders will continue to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.”