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British-Irish trading links bolstered as Brexit looms

By Ben Woods

A network has been launched to strengthen trading ties between British and Irish businesses as they confront the challenges of Brexit. The British Irish Chamber of Commerce (BICC) has created the British Irish Gateway (BIG) for Trade to bring together companies on either side of the Irish Sea

John McGrane, the BICC's director general, said 2017 will "focus the mind" on the importance of the trade relationship between Britain and Ireland, which supports more than 400,000 jobs.

He said: "At a time when businesses are preparing for Brexit, they appreciate a resource like BIG, which helps them to grow their business by being introduced to more customers and suppliers across the UK and Ireland.

"Firms on both sides of the Irish Sea are looking for more trading opportunities and this new service supports the work of chambers and the various State agencies to make those connections easier to find for businesses north, south, east and west."

The move comes as the Central Bank of Ireland begins laying the groundwork to accommodate a significant number of London-based financial services firms looking to move their operations to Dublin in the wake of Brexit.

Gerry Cross, the bank's director of policy and risk, said it was poised to help businesses "think constructively" about relocation.

London's financial firms are waiting with bated breath to discover whether the UK can hold on to passporting rights - which allow them to trade freely across Europe - once Britain exits the EU.

The cost of a so-called "hard Brexit" to revenues in Britain's financial services sector has been estimated to be as high as £38bn, with up to 75,000 jobs being at risk.

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