Retail bodies unite to warn of Brexit dangers
Nearly 300,000 retail jobs depend on the Republic's relationship with the UK, the sector has warned. Lorraine Higgins from industry body Retail Excellence Ireland said shops across the border have already seen a dip in consumer confidence and loss of sales because of the devaluation of sterling.
Retail NI, its counterpart in Northern Ireland, said leaving the single market and customs union following a hard Brexit would be a backwards step for the province.
Ms Higgins said: "Disentangling Ireland from the UK is the most brutal break-up and we need to ensure that we have the best possible plan to safeguard Irish retailers and the 282,000 jobs and 100,000 businesses dependent on the relationship."
Retail Excellence and Retail NI jointly presented the sector's views on Brexit to the Dail's Oireachtas committee on the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms Higgins, head of public affairs at Retail Excellence, added that people were doing their shopping online in growing numbers to take advantage of the weaker pound.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said retailers on both sides of the border needed to focus on international visitors. "Both our organisations are working in partnership to ensure that policies are put in place to support what is the island's largest industry by employment."
He said Belfast, Dublin and London should begin the process of establishing a new one-hour fast train service between Dublin and Belfast, a "game changer" for the all-Ireland economy.
Mr Roberts added: "The bottom line is that Brexit should not result in any barriers in trade and on free movement across the border.
"It clearly is a major problem not having an Executive in place to argue our case in these vital Brexit negotiations. We urge all the political parties to redouble their efforts to secure agreement for a new administration.
"Triggering Article 50 is the start of a huge process of economic, social and political change for Northern Ireland and it remains to be seen if this change will be positive for our local economy.
"Northern Ireland's retail sector needs a lot more certainty than just a vague aspiration about 'no return to the borders of the past'."