Irish and UK business groups urge government cooperation to address COVID-19 crisis
In a joint letter to the Taoiseach and Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Minister, Ibec and the CBI have urged co-operation and co-ordination across the UK and Ireland to provide the best chance of protecting public health and restoring people’s prosperity.
Welcoming policymakers’ efforts to deal with the pandemic, Ibec and CBI believe it is now in everyone’s interests to have experts on both sides of the island of Ireland regularly communicating on their respective plans for economic revival and recovery, including for all-island business and cross border employment.
Ibec and CBI also recommend that “it would be helpful and worthwhile for parallel conversations to take place between the two islands, with the North/South Ministerial Council along with the British-Irish Council providing appropriate formal frameworks for such discussions”.
The recently formed ‘Quad’ where the Tánaiste, First and Deputy First Minister along with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State discuss coordination is another possible channel.
Full text of the letter:
“Dear Taoiseach, First and Deputy First Minister,
“Over the past six weeks, we, the CBI and Ibec, have been working through what has been one of the most challenging periods for business that we can recall. Yet we have every confidence that our economies will recover over time. Indeed, for our organisations, and our members, the number one priority today is to play our part in protecting public health against COVID-19.
“The UK and Ireland have a unique shared history and strong economic, political and cultural links. This relationship is reflected by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and its three Strands including for North/South and East/West cooperation and which both Governments, along with the EU, have committed to protecting now the UK has left the EU.
“Our Common Travel Area has worked for our mutual benefit for almost 100 years and it will continue to allow British and Irish Citizens to live, work and move freely across the two islands. In recent weeks we have welcomed steps taken by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to agree a Memorandum of Understanding for North-South co-operation on public health.
“As the coming weeks unfold, we all hope to make great progress with efforts to both supress the virus and start planning for that much needed economic reboot. The business community is acutely aware of the deep economic impact on business and livelihoods that the measures to contain COVID-19 have had across these islands.
“One of the areas of most immediate concern is our mature and integrated supply chains. This includes essential goods like medicines and pharmaceuticals, with substantial trade annually between Ireland and the UK. The agri-food market across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is at the forefront of all island business and indeed across the two islands agri-food products trade seamlessly - with Ireland being the UK’s second largest source of food imports and one of its largest markets for retail related exports.
“To support these supply chains and ensure that the measures taken in the recovery phase, help to sustain the wide range of business activity between the two jurisdictions we will need the highest level of co-operation, co-ordination and joined-up thinking.
“A return to daily movement of workers and goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland (and across the two islands) will depend on the easing of current restrictions and alignment with medical advice.
“To support and re-energise the strong economic linkages, Ibec and CBI believe it is important and in everyone’s economic interests to have the experts on both sides of the island of Ireland regularly communicating on their respective economic restart plans. Indeed, it would also be helpful and worthwhile for parallel conversations to take place between the two islands, with the North/South Ministerial Council along with the British-Irish Council providing appropriate frameworks for such discussions.
“In this regard, CBI and Ibec are together asking the UK and Irish Governments, along with the Devolved Administrations, to work together and co-ordinate their efforts in emerging from this pandemic. Such co-ordination, particularly around economic revival, will provide us with the best chance of protecting public health and restoring the prosperity of our people.
“The CBI and Ibec would also like to take this opportunity to place on record our sincere thanks for your extraordinary efforts to date, and we look forward to supporting you in the days and months ahead.
Carolyn Fairbairn (CBI Director General) and Danny McCoy (Ibec Chief Executive).”