The clock is ticking and business is ‘watching and waiting’

Northern Ireland faces two long years of Brexit uncertainty but a functioning executive is vital to the process
Northern Ireland faces two long years of Brexit uncertainty but a functioning executive is vital to the process

It is essential that Northern Ireland’s best interests are secured as the process to leave the European Union gets underway, professional groups across all sectors have claimed.

In the absence of a functioning Executive and the transfer of its duties to the Civil Service, business orgnisations have stressed once gain the need for a voince for the province in negotiations critical to its development post Brexit.

While one observer said the process had the potential to deliver opportunities in the longer-term, others warned of severe long and short term risks to Northern Ireland’s commercial operations.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to free trade and European values which should hearten those around the table and set a constructive tone at the start of the negotiations,” said CBI NI director Angela McGowan.

“Businesses will welcome the importance placed in the letter on Northern Ireland. Peace and prosperity go hand in hand and it is important that the UK and the EU work closely together to follow through on the need to avoid a return to a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland”

“Firms have been calling for the devolved nations to be better engaged in the Brexit process. It’s important that the UK Government makes good on these commitments, particularly during this time of political instability in Northern Ireland.”

Danske Bank Economist Conor Lambe said: “Brexit has the potential to deliver some opportunities in the longer-term, particularly if the UK Government is successful in its aim to strike a number of free trade deals with countries around the world.

“But the next two years will bring a number of challenges. International negotiations are often extremely complex and the task of agreeing a comprehensive free trade deal, alongside finding common ground on issues such as financial obligations and the timeframe over which the terms of the negotiations will be implemented, should not be underestimated.

Urging the political parties to work towards a new Executive as soon as possible, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) highlighted construction as a key area of concern.

“Northern Ireland already has a significant number of construction workers operating in GB, and the potential loss of the 176,500 EU nationals currently working in the UK’s construction sector could put further pressure on Northern Ireland’s skills base,” it said.

“This could impact on our ability to deliver essential infrastructure projects and to build the necessary supply of new homes that our society and economy needs.”

Glyn Roberts, CEO of lobby group Retail NI said: “the retail sector needs a lot more certainty than just a vague aspiration about ‘no return to the borders of past’. The bottom line is that Brexit should not result in any barriers in trade and free movement across the border”

“It clearly is a major problem not having an Executive in place to argue our case in these vital Brexit negotiations. We urge all the political parties to redouble their efforts to secure agreement for a new administration”