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Union: Hard Brexit will put thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland at risk

By Margaret Canning

Thousands of manufacturing and agri-food jobs in Northern Ireland will be put at risk in the event of a hard Brexit, a trade union has claimed.

And Unite Ireland secretary Jimmy Kelly hit out at David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, accusing him of failing to understand the significance of a hard border for Northern Ireland.

Mr Kelly said: "Getting Brexit wrong will have devastating consequences for an economy that is already struggling to deliver growth in the context of a productivity crisis."

And he said Mr Davis had failed to inspire confidence in the Government's ability to negotiate Brexit in a way that would meet the needs of the economy.

In the Commons this week, the Brexit Secretary said the use of technology would ensure a "soft" border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

But Mr Kelly said the Brexit Secretary had displayed a lack of understanding of the consequences of a hard Brexit, "including loss of access to tariff-free trade and exclusion from the EU Customs Union".

He said: "Thousands of manufacturing jobs and jobs throughout the agri-food supply chain in particular would be threatened should the UK be forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation trade rules.

"Such a hard Brexit would lead to punitive tariffs being imposed on cross-border trade." But Jeff Peel of Quadriga Consulting - a prominent pro-Leave campaigner in Northern Ireland - said the economy in the province had improved since the European Union vote, with exporters also benefiting from the fall in sterling.

"The Prime Minister has made clear in her Lancaster House speech that she wants an open border and tariff-free trading with the EU - including Ireland. If the EU chooses to reject this offer then the EU would be obliged to honour most favoured nation status for the UK under WTO rules, which should also result in tariff-free trade.

"Our trade with Ireland, while important, is not nearly as important as our trade with the rest of the UK. Great Britain is, by far, our most important trading partner.

"There is every indication that our trade will thrive in a United Kingdom that promises to be a global trailblazer for free trade - with the EU and the rest of the world."

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