In advance of the Westminster Brexit vote, Ireland and Northern Ireland’s leading business groups warned that a ‘no deal’ outcome would have devastating economic consequences for the all-island economy, which must be avoided. The Ibec-CBI NI Joint Business Council said ‘no deal’ would immediately put jobs and businesses at risk and jeopardise years of positive economic development and integration across the island.
The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement includes comprehensive provisions to limit disruption to the all-island economy post-Brexit, including a transition period and the ‘Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol that forms the ‘backstop’. In contrast, a ‘no deal’ outcome would result in an immediate and unprecedented economic shock.
For business on the island of Ireland the backstop provides a ‘safety-net’ insurance policy, which would ideally be rendered obsolete by a comprehensive EU-UK agreement on their future relationship involving arrangements better than the ‘backstop’. Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is vital to allow trade talks to progress. Agreement on future relations should facilitate frictionless trade and ‘just-in-time’ supply chains to continue operating post-Brexit. For business in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and especially SMEs that predominantly trade in the all-island economy, it is vital that the future relationship should include an ambitious deal on services.
Ibec Director of Policy and Public Affairs Fergal O’Brien said: “Protecting the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement and the resulting all-island economic benefits is vital. Business also recognises that the Single Market has been a game-changer for the dynamic of the all-island economy. The withdrawal deal includes important provisions to minimise economic disruption and avoid a hard border. A ‘No deal’ outcome would profoundly exacerbate, rather than resolve the many difficult challenges that Brexit presents. These challenges would remain but would have to be addressed in a climate of political chaos and economic upheaval. It is not a prospect that any responsible politician should countenance.”
Commenting on developments CBI NI Director Angela McGowan said: “Many firms across Northern Ireland simply could not cope with a no-deal Brexit. Not only would it do significant harm to jobs, investment and living standards but it would put at risk the all-island economic model that has been an important factor in driving local prosperity. Moreover, it brings with it unnecessary risk to the Good Friday Agreement, which has been the foundation of social, economic and political progress. The assurances that business have been crying out for are broadly provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement – ignoring that in pursuit of no-deal isn't just economic recklessness, it's an affront to rational thinking.”