Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Boom time to end for border traders

After many warnings about an imminent economic crunch in general, the border traders in Northern Ireland are now facing a significant fall in business due to the weaker euro and the expected rise in VAT.

The booming cross-border business was partly due to the cheaper VAT rate here, and lower prices on a wide range of commodities including clothes and groceries.

The weakening of the Euro will bring benefits to the south through increased tourism and business, but this will also place in jeopardy the cross-border trade which brought the north as much as £378million last year.

Over decades the increased margins from trading have fluctuated between the north and south, depending on the state of each economy, but people on this side of the border are realistically bracing themselves for leaner times.

One of the major attractions, like it or not, has been the lower price of alcohol in the north. Another major factor leading to a downturn in cross-border business will be the Government's decision to ban cheap alcohol, which will threaten the trade from the Irish Republic worth some £43million to the northern economy.

This newspaper has long been aware of the social and health dangers of cheap drink, and we recognise that the Government's move to curb the availability of below-cost alcohol is being taken for good reasons.

A problem with some Westminster legislation, however, is that it fails to recognise the special position here. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson, will need to learn quickly that this province does need extra consideration in many different ways, and to watch out locally for the damaging economic repercussions of national measures, however well-meant they may be.

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