Brexit detail is key to NI commerce, business leader warns

John Healy fears exit uncertainty and Stormont deficit will harm North’s economy

Northern Ireland chamber of commerce president John Healy claims the lack of an executive at Stormont together with Brexit may further damage the local economy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Northern Ireland chamber of commerce president John Healy claims the lack of an executive at Stormont together with Brexit may further damage the local economy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

It is more important for businesses in Northern Ireland to get the “detail of Brexit right” than simply “getting it done”, a top industry leader has warned UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

Although Mr Johnson has a strong mandate for his Brexit deal, Northern Ireland chamber of commerce president John Healy said it does not represent the “end” of the matter, rather it was “only the beginning of a process”.

Mr Healy, who is also vice-president and managing director of tech giant Allstate Northern Ireland, which employs 2,300, said businesses urgently require “clear, detailed information” to be best prepared for the changes which lie ahead.

“The incoming government must still act to avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union,” Mr Healy warned.

‘Stagnant economy’

He fears the combination of ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the lack of an executive at Stormont will result in a further deterioration in the local economy in the coming months.

“Businesses need to see immediate, substantial action to reinvigorate our stagnant economy, build new infrastructure, boost skills and lower the cost of doing business in 2020.

“We need an end to vague pronouncements, and a renewed focus on the details that matter,” Mr Healy urged.

His direct pleas to the UK prime minister and to local political leaders have been echoed by the leader of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Ivor Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson said that, regardless of how people voted on Brexit in 2016, the key issue in 2020 was to “make sure Brexit is a success for agriculture”.

But he warned: “That will not be achieved by simply leaving the EU. Success will be measured for agriculture by what is agreed in two key areas. These are the support structures put in place as an alternative to the CAP and the trade relationships we have with the EU27 and the rest of the world.”