No-deal Brexit: Northern Irish businesses ‘could not cope’

Lobby groups say protecting all-island benefits of Belfast Agreement is vital for future

Northern Irish firms are already losing out on new business due to Brexit, according to Ulster Bank. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Northern Irish firms are already losing out on new business due to Brexit, according to Ulster Bank. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

There are many firms in the North that “simply could not cope with a no-deal Brexit”, senior business leaders in Northern Ireland and the Republic are warning.

They argue that protecting the all-island economic benefits of the Belfast Agreement is vital for the future.

Businesses in the North are growing increasingly anxious about their prospects. Some Northern Irish firms lost out on new orders last month due to Brexit, according to Ulster Bank’s latest economic report, and many businesses say they are already experiencing a “dampened demand” from international clients.

Leading business organisations on both sides of the Border united on Tuesday to issue a stark warning that a no-deal result would “jeopardise jobs and the all-island economy”.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the North and Ibec, the largest business lobby in the South, both said a no-deal scenario would have devastating economic consequences for the island as a whole.

CBI NI director, Angela McGowan said many firms in the North could not cope with a no-deal Brexit outcome. “Not only would it do significant harm to jobs, investment and living standards but it would put at risk the all-island economic model that has been an important factor in driving local prosperity.

Angela McGowan, head of the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland.
Angela McGowan, head of the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland.

“Moreover, it brings with it unnecessary risk to the Good Friday Agreement, which has been the foundation of social, economic and political progress. The assurances that business have been crying out for are broadly provided for in the withdrawal agreement: ignoring that in pursuit of no-deal isn’t just economic recklessness, it’s an affront to rational thinking,” Ms McGowan said.

Fergal O’Brien, Ibec director of policy and public affairs, agrees that it is vital to protect the achievements of the Belfast Agreement.

“Business recognises that the Single Market has been a game-changer for the dynamic of the all-island economy. The withdrawal deal includes important provisions to minimise economic disruption and avoid a hard border.

“A ‘no-deal’ outcome would profoundly exacerbate, rather than resolve, the many difficult challenges that Brexit presents.

“These challenges would remain but would have to be addressed in a climate of political chaos and economic upheaval. It is not a prospect that any responsible politician should countenance,” Mr O’Brien said.