NI business leaders to meet PM on Brexit

Business leaders from across Northern Ireland will meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street today to express their backing for her draft Brexit deal.

About 40 people, including representatives of business associations and chiefs of individual companies, will attend for an hour long discussion.

Groups such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland back her draft text because it gives the business sector trading certainty and avoids a ‘no deal’ scenario.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has called on the DUP to support the deal but the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson has said businesses are being used as “puppets” by the Northern Ireland Office.

Prime Minister Theresa May holds a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, to discuss her Brexit plans. Photo: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of Manufacturing NI, told the BBC they will tell Mrs May: “We back the deal. Good luck. What do we need to do to help?”

He said the delegation will consist of businesses large and small, urban and rural, industrial and agricultural.

But TUV leader Jim Allister accused them of “lining up to pay homage” to the prime minister.

He said they had failed to say why they are supporting a deal which involves regulations on imports from Great Britain, which unionists see as weakening the union.

“The rush to embrace a crippling Irish Sea border is as absurd as it is destructive of our economy,” Mr Allister said.