Industry warns of €1bn hit to NI economy if Stormont talks fail

Confederation of British Industry also raises concerns about dangers of no-deal Brexit

Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

 

The North’s economy could take a devastating £940 million (€1 billion) hit if the Northern Ireland Executive is not restored by the end of this year, one of the UK’s largest business bodies has warned.

The new analysis from the Confederation of British Industry. Speaking at the confederation’s Northern Ireland annual dinner in Belfast on Thursday, Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the confederation, said the North’s economy was seriously under threat on two fronts – the ongoing political impasse and a potential no-deal Brexit.

Ms Fairbairn told more than 600 senior business leaders at Waterfront Hall in Belfast that Northern Irish politicians needed to “adopt the business approach” to end the stalemate.

“The political impasse has left Northern Ireland without a functioning government for more than 860 days – the longest-ever peacetime government deadlock.

“In boardrooms across the country, business leaders know all about differences of opinion and robust debate – over questions about where to invest, who to hire and how to run a company. But for the most successful among them, stalemate simply is not an option. They have no choice but to reach consensus.

“Business is crying out for compromise because the cost of failure now would be so great. This money could help fix roads, eradicate waiting lists in Northern Irish hospitals or transform education in primary and secondary schools.

“Restoring power to Stormont is the only way to do achieve this. What was once pressing is now desperately urgent,” she said.

No-deal Brexit

Ms Fairbairn said the lack of an Executive was not the only looming economic crisis on the horizon for the Northern Ireland economy – the cost of a no-deal Brexit could be equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the North’s economy by 2034.

“With thousands of goods vehicles and people crossing the Border each day, business has been clear. A hard border would be an economic wrecking ball for Northern Ireland.

“Facts must be at the heart of this debate. The CBI and many businesses in this room have given politicians the economic evidence they need.

“There is the cost of potential tariffs and the damage of no-deal Brexit for Northern Ireland’s many current strengths as a place to invest.

“Together businesses are this nation’s greatest source of jobs, prosperity and collaboration. It must be the business voice that shapes the policies that work for Northern Ireland’s people and its future prosperity,” she said.