Need for all-island collaboration has never been greater

October 20, 2020

The Ibec-CBI Northern Ireland Joint Business Council (JBC), the voice of business across the island of Ireland, has said the combination of the ongoing Covid challenge on the island and Brexit has demonstrated the growing importance for substantive all-island collaboration to address the collective challenges our economies face. 

Such cross-border collaboration will not only be imperative in efforts in overcoming and recovering from Covid, but will play a central role in adapting to the economic and social challenges posed by the new North/South dynamic that will emerge in the event we fail to reach a trade agreement. It is vital that inadequate coordination on Covid across the island doesn’t constrain the options available in both jurisdictions to ultimately combat the virus.  

At the annual JBC “Business on a Connected Island” Conference, this year taking place virtually, the groups will outline that cross-border co-operation in recent years has led to collective benefits in a multitude of areas ranging from environmental collaboration, accident and emergency services, education, energy, tourism, recreation, social cohesion and transport. Such benefits are being legally protected in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol but at risk of being eroded by a no deal Brexit. The two jurisdictions must work together more effectively to secure long-term strategic investment opportunities that will enhance competitiveness and productivity of the all-island economy and fuel recovery. 

Speaking ahead of the event, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “Both Ireland and Northern Ireland have benefited economically because of the improvements brought about by peace, stability and an invisible border for goods, services, labour and finance. However, a disruptive Brexit will undoubtedly change the North/South dynamic and businesses must be ready to adapt.  

“The creation of a new Shared Island Unit in the Department of An Taoiseach and the announcement in Budget 2021 of all-island initiatives in areas such as research, education and infrastructure investment gives a positive signal to business to look to investing in their own all-island business development ambitions. In the short-term we must do much more collectively across our shared island to tackle Covid and business will play its part in supporting that stronger collaboration.”

CBI Northern Ireland Director, Angela McGowan, said: “Companies have experienced first-hand the benefits of supplying, selling, and investing across the two jurisdictions. Coming together to raise economic growth and living standards across the island has been an important step for both economies. While the NI Protocol will ensure that we stay together, the task now moves to working together to ensure that previous progress is not undone, and future potential can be fully unlocked. Collaboration on a full range of issues such as skills, climate change, investment and connectivity will ensure that both businesses and citizens across this shared island enjoy greater opportunities and of course reap the potential rewards.” 

The annual conference will see insights and commentary provided from Ireland’s new European Commissioner Máiréad McGuinness, RTÉ Europe Editor Tony Connelly and Professor Katy Hayward of Queen's University Belfast.