Irish and British business groups call for “sensible” deal on border trade post Brexit

IBEC and CBI want an “open, frictionless border” in Ireland

Any new EU-UK trade deal must include comprehensive transitional arrangements to avoid a damaging “cliff edge” scenario for businesses both North and South, one of the UK’s most influential industry leaders has warned.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said it was vitally important there is a "sensible agreement" on the border issue "which allows both sides of the border to flourish".

Senior leaders from both the CBI and Ibec have held discussions on what they have identified as the critical issues pertaining to cross border trade.

According to the CBI, members from both organisations believe an “open, frictionless border” between the North and South and also between the island of Ireland and the UK is vital.


Both the CBI and Ibec, the Dublin-based employers lobby, are adamant that it is crucial that businesses are allowed time to prepare and adapt to any potential new trading relationships post Brexit.

Carolyn Fairbairn said: “”The CBI will play a vital role in taking the concerns of Northern Irish businesses affected by Brexit to all levels of government in London and Brussels.

“With Northern Irish exports to the Republic of Ireland valued at £2.4 billion in 2016, it is vitally important we reach a sensible agreement on the border issue which allows firms on both sides of the border to flourish.”

She said it was clear that both Ibec and the CBI want to work together to find solutions that can firstly accommodate a frictionless cross border trading system and one that would enable businesses to avoid potential tariff and non-tariff barriers in the future.

But Ms Fairbairn said any potential solution to the border issue first requires political stability.

“We therefore once again call on all political parties in Northern Ireland to act in the best interests of the region by restoring power-sharing institutions by the end of June. It has never been more important to have a fully functional executive championing Northern Ireland’s cause.”

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy also urged political leaders to ensure that any future deal between the EU and the UK would recognise the “unique economic and political challenge for Ireland” that Brexit would create.

“An early focus on avoiding a hard border with Northern Ireland is vital, but the Irish approach must also be informed by the greater economic importance of the east-west, Irish-British trading relationship. Across both trade and investments, the outcome of negotiations must not disadvantage Ireland,” he said.

Mr McCoy believes that any future deal must “facilitate the closest, possible tariff-free economic, trading and business relationship between the EU and UK into the future”.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business