NI business leaders advised to ‘speak to the Irish’ about Brexit

British government urges firms to seek guidance from Republic

The head of Manufacturing NI said Northern companies are being told to “speak to the Irish”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The head of Manufacturing NI said Northern companies are being told to “speak to the Irish”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


The British government’s advice to Northern businesses who trade directly with the Republic to seek guidance from the Irish Government in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been slammed by business leaders in the North, with one describing it as “extraordinary”.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive, of Manufacturing NI, the trade body which represents more than 550 firms in the North including some of the largest employers said the guidance from the British government would only make Northern Ireland “a more difficult and less attractive place to do business by doubling up on rules and introducing unwelcome customs costs for everyone, including individuals liable for VAT costs”.

“Advising firms to ‘speak to the Irish’ is extraordinary. Only business can make Brexit work so brushing our firms off and telling them to go sort our own problems out by speaking to Dublin is not acceptable,” he added.

The British government’s technical Brexit documents, issued on Thursday, do not, according to Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shine any light on future arrangements for the Border, which is among the most critical issues for businesses in the North.

Clarity needed

Ms McGregor said: “Businesses across Northern Ireland need the two sides to be far clearer about what will happen to trade on the ground at the Irish Border, and between the Irish Republic and Great Britain, in the unwelcome event that a deal cannot be struck.”

She said businesses would be confused by the latest Brexit guidance which would lead to an increase in costs, while the head of one of the North’s largest retail bodies also warned that the documents painted a “dark picture for both business and the consumer”.

Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the British government’s assertion that new customs arrangements would have be put in place if there is no deal would only “add to the time, cost, and red tape of bringing goods into the Northern Ireland and on to shelves.”

“This will translate into price rises which is disaster for our consumers who already have half of the discretionary income of our Great Britain counterparts,” he warned.