Industry in calls over Brexit and devolution
TWO OF Northern Ireland’s biggest business groups have called for action over Brexit and the lack of a devolved government here.
Hospitality Ulster has said that the lack of a government in Northern Ireland was costing the sector “millions of pounds”.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, today said the loss of an opportunity to update licensing laws following the collapse of the Assembly was a major contributor to the losses.
And the CBI in Northern Ireland has said that the economy here will suffer greatly if migration is cut following Brexit, as a large number of industries are highly dependent on migrant labour.
The organisation, led by Angela Mcgowan, said that GDP could be reduced by as much as 9% as a result of a loss of migrant workers.
Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist at Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre, said the province had the highest percentage of EU workers of any UK region except London.
But he said Northern Ireland also had the highest level of economic inactivity, at 27.7%.
The CBI has called for firms of all sizes in the province to have better access to people and skills from the EU and around the world.
NORTHERN Ireland’s economy will suffer if the Government significantly cuts migration levels after Brexit, the CBI has warned.
The business organisation has carried out research which predicts that a substantial cut to both EU and international workers could see our GDP decrease by 9.1% by 2041. A lesser scenario involving a 50% cut to EU inward migration only could see GDP reduce by 5.3% over the same period, the report shows.
CBI Northern Ireland has said that local employers have become increasingly reliant on migrant workers, largely due to demographic changes and the trend for young people to move away for study or work outside the region.
The All Together Better report indicates that migrants are currently filling gaps in both low-level and high-level jobs, and are particularly prominent in education, healthcare, hospitality, agri-food and digital industries.
Even with current migration levels, the study shows that the population here is ageing.
According to the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (NISRA), the pensionable age cohort is to increase by over 40% in the next 25 years.
While the population is projected to increase here over that period, the working age population is expected to decrease by 2%.
The CBI study indicates that limiting migration in both scenarios would see Northern Ireland’s working age population shrink by between 6 and 8%.
“This economy will not survive without getting full access to skills at all levels and getting access to people,” CBI NI director Angela Mcgowan said.
“I think it’s really important to make sure people have the evidence and that it’s well understood and the decisions of policy makers do actually have implications for people’s lives and livelihoods.”
The latest labour force data revealed that there were 325,000 economically inactive people in the local working-age population.
But when full-time students, retired people, sick and disabled people along with those who look after families or homes were removed, just 6% were left (19,500).
The CBI director said last week’s report from the Migration Advisory Committee had identified the challenges around migration for Northern Ireland “but failed to offer any solutions”.
Among the recommendations contained in the CBI report is to allow firms of all sizes here to have better access to people and skills from the EU and around the world.
“It’s vitally important that whatever immigration system we adopt post-brexit fulfils a number of basic tests.
“It must be open, controlled and work for all parts of the UK, whilst recognising the specific challenges we face in Northern Ireland,” said Ms Mcgowan.
The news headlines have been dominated by stories of the Bank Buildings engulfed in flames and at risk of collapse.
Bank Buildings was constructed in 1785, having withstood not only the 1941 Blitz but also three bomb explosions in 1975.
While discussions continue regarding its structural integrity, Associated British Foods plc (Primark’s parent company) has confirmed that the building is covered by a policy of insurance, and this should prompt property owners, landlords and tenants to consider their responsibilities when it comes to insuring their premises. In Northern Ireland a large proportion of commercial and retail units are held under commercial leases. A commercial lease contains a number of obligations, of which one will relate to the insurance of the building.
As the landlord’s interest in the building is greater than that of an occupational tenant, they will usually retain the responsibility of obtaining insurance.
Where the landlord insures, the tenant will usually be expected to reimburse the full cost of that insurance policy (or a fair proportion of the costs where they occupy part of the building).
It is unlikely that any policy of insurance will extend to the tenant’s contents, fixtures or fittings. Therefore, a tenant should arrange its own contents insurance and may be expected to obtain public liability insurance, employer’s liability insurance and insurance for the plate glass in the premises.
Any building insurance policy should cover the full cost of repairing or reinstating the building.
It is not sufficient for the insurance policy to simply cover the market value of the building, as this may differ substantially from the costs of reinstating the building. A landlord will usually insist that in addition to the rebuilding cost, the value of the policy includes any costs associated with clearing the site, instructing architects and other professionals and obtaining statutory consents.
While this may inflate the price of any such policy, it will help to ensure that no additional costs associated with the rebuilding works filter down to the tenant directly or through the service charges.
A well drafted commercial lease will include an obligation for the landlord to insure against a number of specific risks. Such risks typically include fire, earthquake, storm, flooding, riot and impact by vehicle or aircraft, but may not extend to terrorism. It is important that the risks insured against are as comprehensive as possible, as the tenant may find themselves responsible for repairing damage or destruction caused by an uninsured risk under the repair provisions in their lease.
A lease should include a mechanism for the suspension of rent where the building is damaged or destroyed by a specified risk.
Where a tenant is leasing part of a building, it is vital that the suspension of rent is linked to the damage or destruction of the building and not just their premises. If the suspension of rent was linked to the tenant’s premises only (as opposed to the building which the premises form part of ), the tenant’s obligation to pay rent would continue even if their premises were unfit for occupation. A tenant should also ensure that any clause dealing with the suspension of rent extends to the suspension of the service charge and additional costs payable under their lease.
It may seem unusual to consider the damage or destruction of the landlord’s building or the tenant’s premises when entering into a lease. However, the blackened sandstone facade of the Bank Buildings stands as a reminder that this eventuality is not outside the realms of possibility.
Michael Press is a solicitor in the commercial department at Worthingtons Solicitors, Belfast, with experience in a broad range of property transactions including commercial leases, acquisitions and disposals and residential conveyancing. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on 028 9043 4015.
Warning: Angela Mcgowan
Flames engulfing the Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre