Irish business groups concerned over ‘aggressive’ Brexit stance

Ibec says hardline attitude risks damaging UK’s close relationship with Ireland

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy: “This is an aggressive move by the UK, showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states”

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy: “This is an aggressive move by the UK, showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states”

 

Irish business organisations have expressed concerns over Britain’s increasingly hardline stance on its exit from the EU.

Speaking after British prime minister Theresa May confirmed that the UK would leave the single market, Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said Britain’s approach to negotiations risked damaging its relationship with Ireland.

Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said businesses in Ireland were no further advanced in understanding what would happen. Business would welcome the UK commitment to the continuation of the common travel area “although more clarity on barrier-free arrangements with Northern Ireland remains critical for businesses on both sides of the Border”.

Chartered Accountants Ireland warned that Brexit would redefine how we “move and trade” between the two parts of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain.

“While it is encouraging that the UK prime minister has set as part of her 12-point plan the maintenance of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK, the act of leaving the single market and putting in place new customs arrangements will inevitably create borders,” the institute’s director of public policy and taxation, Brian Keegan, said.

He said a key focus now needed to be on administrative measures to ease the movement of goods and people after Brexit.

Mr McCoy of Ibec said any move by the UK to unilaterally forge new global trade deals was at odds with membership of the current EU customs union and was a “combative starting point to talks”.

He said a UK departure from the customs union as it currently stands “could seriously disrupt trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and deeply damage UK-Irish economic relations”.

“The possibility of the UK leaving both the single market and the customs union raises fundamental questions about Ireland’s future trading relations with the UK,” Mr McCoy said.

“This is an aggressive move by the UK showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states.”

Serious threats

Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy said the retention of free trade for agriculture must be a key priority in Brexit negotiations. “Agriculture and food cannot become a battleground between Brussels and London. There are too many farm livelihoods and jobs at stake.”

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce said while some of the content of what Ms May said raised concern, it also provided more clarity.

“It is clear from this statement that the UK government’s concerns regarding immigration outweigh their need to retain membership of the EU single market and customs union. This will be alarming for businesses operating in both the UK and Ireland, many of whom rely on the bilateral trade between our two countries for the more than 400,000 jobs they sustain,” said director general John McGrane.

Priority

However, Ms McGregor warned that Ms May’s reference to partial membership of the customs union “must come without costly customs checks and administrative costs for businesses which would pose a threat to Irish cross-Border trade”.