Renegotiating deal will cause further uncertainty, claim business leaders
DUP leader tells them to ‘stop wasting time’
BUSINESS leaders have said the DUP’S call to renegotiate the EU withdrawal agreement will spell more uncertainty for firms in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after meeting 30 business delegates who back the deal in Stormont yesterday, Arlene Foster said it is doomed to fail when it goes before MPS on December 12.
“Businesses want certainty therefore they should not waste the next few weeks in advance of the meaningful vote, especially when many parliamentarians have already made up their minds to reject the deal,” said the DUP leader.
Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer suggested yesterday that if the deal is voted down, it could force the Government and EU to agree to extend article 50 in order to stop a no deal scenario.
Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said businesses are not closed to the idea of renegotiation. But he said it would require more time, meaning delaying the Brexit process.
But CBI director Angela McGowan said the business community is “desperate” to move on.
“There is no appetite among CBI members to go back to square one in terms of the EU negotiations,” she said. “Continued Brexit uncertainty is already affecting firms’ investment intentions, resulting in changes to companies’ supply chains and, in some instances, jobs moving.”
The chief executive of the NI Chamber, Ann Mcgregor, said businesses cannot face “the chaos of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU next March”.
She appealed for MPS to “keep the millions of firms and families trying to plan for the future at the forefront of their minds over the next number of weeks”.
Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie has suggested that although it would result in a longer transition period, renegotiation could be more beneficial in the long-term.
But writing in today’s Business Telegraph, Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe said: “The best that can be hoped for during the Brexit negotiations is to minimise the extent of the damage to the economy.”
While he said it was not perfect, he added: “I consider the draft withdrawal agreement reached a couple of weeks ago to be a positive development.”
There is no doubt that the draft Withdrawal Agreement is a welcome step forward for the majority of businesses in NI and it is definitely much better than a no-deal scenario. Our trading firms will be paying close attention to what happens next.
The agreement is a significant milestone in the political process of Brexit, and is clearly a personal achievement for the Prime Minister.
As she visits NI today, it is the perfect opportunity to highlight how her resilience has been matched only by that of businesses challenged by three years of non-stop political debate and continuous uncertainty. This is not a great environment for entrepreneurs and inward investors trying to grow their businesses and provide much needed employment.
We now encourage our political representatives who support the agreement to do everything in their power to influence political representatives in Britain to join them. They must be persuaded to put the economy ahead of political ambition.
It is time to support the general direction of the agreement and use the transition period to focus on the details.
For those that are not in support of the draft agreement, it is now time to outline your alternative proposals.
Any new proposals must ensure that NI has unfettered access to markets and a business environment conducive to growth including access to skills from across the globe. Businesses acknowledge that this agreement, and the proposed backstop mechanism, are not the intended permanent solutions.
Since the Withdrawal Agreement was published, NI Chamber has reiterated its views with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, and yesterday business organisations continued their engagement on the deal via meetings with the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party, with further meetings scheduled with the UUP.
As an organisation whose aim is to help grow the NI economy, NI Chamber’s overarching message is clear — we must grow the private sector — not shrink it.
Therefore businesses cannot face the chaos of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU next March.
As we await whatever outcome before Christmas, with people’s livelihoods, their jobs and the future prospects for many companies in the balance, we ask that parliamentarians keep the millions of firms and families trying to plan for the future at the forefront of their minds over the next number of weeks.
Byannmcgregor, Chiefexecutiveof thenorthernireland Chamberofcommerce andindustry