Busi­ness com­mu­nity is des­per­ate to move on af­ter long ne­go­ti­a­tions

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News -

The CBI, along with all other busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives across NI and civic so­ci­ety, have over the last week voiced our broad sup­port for the Prime Min­is­ter’s EU With­drawal Agree­ment, which, if signed off by the UK, al­lows us to move on to the real ne­go­ti­a­tions around fu­ture trade. There have been 20 months of ne­go­ti­a­tions since Ar­ti­cle 50 was trig­gered. What we have on the ta­ble now is a com­pro­mise with­drawal deal that while not per­fect, is a step for­ward.

The UK govern­ment is aim­ing for a fu­ture trade deal with the EU that will hope­fully en­sure that bor­ders and checks are not needed. How­ever, Novem­ber’s With­drawal Agree­ment could only be signed off if a ‘ back-stop’ ar­range­ment for NI was in­cluded. The EU, the UK and the Ir­ish govern­ment all con­cede that a hard border in NI is not ac­cept­able and thus the agreed back-stop is an in­sur­ance pol­icy mea­sure only.

This guar­an­tee also gives a de­gree of as­sur­ance to the 7,400 firms in NI that trade on a north­south ba­sis. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the back-stop, if ever needed, would al­low NI firms un­fet­tered ac­cess to the GB mar­ket.

If rat­i­fied, the With­drawal Agree­ment would take the prospect of a cliff edge no-deal Brexit off the ta­ble. It would un­lock the tran­si­tion pe­riod which pro­vides com­pa­nies with a fur­ther 21 months to ad­just to any new ar­range­ments. This is im­por­tant be­cause most com­pa­nies are sim­ply not ready for dra­matic changes on March 30 next year.

Af­ter pro­longed ne­go­ti­a­tions the busi­ness com­mu­nity is now des­per­ate to move on and build on this progress. There is no ap­petite to go back to square one. Con­tin­ued Brexit un­cer­tainty is al­ready af­fect­ing in­vest­ment, resulting in changes to com­pa­nies’ sup­ply chains, and in some in­stances, jobs mov­ing.

Stock­pil­ing has al­ready be­gun. Fur­ther­more, valu­able in­vest­ment that should have come here has not ar­rived. The busi­ness com­mu­nity be­lieves this is the mo­ment when we all must com­pro­mise to achieve progress. Busi­ness lead­ers are re­al­ists and prag­ma­tists.

They des­per­ately want to fo­cus on the do­mes­tic pol­icy agenda, such as skills and in­fras­truc­ture to in­crease our pro­duc­tiv­ity growth and raise liv­ing stan­dards for all.

STEPHEN HAMIL­TON

Stephen Kelly (Man­u­fac­tur­ing NI), An­gela Mcgowan (CBI), Glyn Roberts (Re­tail NI) and Colin Neill (Hos­pi­tal­ity Ul­ster) at Stor­mont af­ter a meet­ing with the DUP

Byan­ge­lam­c­gowan, Re­gionaldirec­tor­cbini

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