North may serve as post-Brexit ‘bridge’ to EU, claims Retail NI

UK draft Brexit agreement finds support among large number of business bodies in NI

Since British prime minister Theresa May revealed details of the UK’s divorce deal, there has been  growing support from business groups in Northern Ireland.

Since British prime minister Theresa May revealed details of the UK’s divorce deal, there has been growing support from business groups in Northern Ireland.

 

Northern Ireland could be the “bridge to the European Union and have the best of both worlds” after the UK leaves the EU, according to a leading retail organisation which has become the latest business body in the North to back the UK’s draft Brexit agreement.

Retail NI, which represents 1,300 independent businesses, confirmed on Monday that while it did not believe the draft deal was “perfect” it had decided to support it because of the potential “economic disaster of no deal”.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said: “If this deal is not voted through the House of Commons then we face the chaos of the UK crashing out of the EU. We are satisfied that it gives protection to the vital retail supply chain and ensures businesses will have full and tariff-free access to the UK and EU single markets.”

Groundswell of support

Mr Roberts has called for political leaders to put the North’s “economy, future prosperity and people’s jobs” before their own respective political beliefs.

Since British prime minister Theresa May revealed details of the UK’s divorce deal last week, there has been a growing groundswell of support for it from businesses groups in Northern Ireland.

Among the first to back the proposed deal were four of the North’s largest business groups which collectively said the agreement, while “by no means perfect” was a “welcome step forward”.

The Confederation of British Industry NI, the Institute of Directors NI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce have all agreed that the draft Brexit agreement provides local firms in the North with some clarity and will enable all the parties involved in the negotiations to “move on to the critical next stage”.

Meat industry

The North’s Livestock and Meat Commission has also welcomed the withdrawal agreement because it believes “a no-deal scenario would be a devastating blow to the Northern Ireland red meat industry”, while the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association and the Ulster Farmer’s Union have also both acknowledged that Theresa May’s hard-fought plan could help avoid the one scenario which they both dread – a no-deal Brexit.

Leading industry groups including the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Manufacturing NI, Hospitality Ulster, Freight Transport Association Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters’ Association have all described the draft agreement as a “welcome step” towards a deal. While the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has said it also views it as an “extremely important first step”.