Belfast Christmas Market boss vows Brexit will not affect event
The man in charge of Belfast's Christmas Market has said it will not be affected by Brexit.
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Allan Hartwell, who is managing director at Market Place (Europe) Limited, said this year's event will feature the usual mix of European traders, and international and local market stall holders.
He said: "Even if it (Brexit) came in today, we were prepared so far in advance and in the game. Our traders had stockpiled and we have a lot of products here already."
Mr Hartwell said storage units around Northern Ireland are holding the popular Bratwurst sausages and other European delicacies ahead of the market opening on November 16.
He believes the biggest hurdle for EU traders coming to the city at present is the exchange rate.
"The weak pound is the real issue, not the potential tariffs and paper work," he added.
"The current exchange rate doesn't give our traders extra profit and that can prevent new ones joining.
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"But one of the things we've learned from running these markets, and we've been doing it from 1992, is that these traders are very resilient and they will find ways to come back."
Mr Hartwell hopes the threat of disruption is a short-term concern. He added: "I think everyone is now looking at how next year will look, how it will affect them, and I think we're going to have to wait and see what the bureaucrats decide and I hope common sense plays a part.
"What we need to remember is that there is formal research on what these markets bring to cities and last year the Christmas Market contributed millions to the NI economy."
Mr Hartwell said that figure could be felt in both the retail and hospitality sectors as visitors and market traders forked out for accommodation and other retailers enjoyed spin-off trade.
He added: "Some traders will find it difficult next year but we will do all we can to help them.
"And this year, despite Brexit, there are still new traders from Europe coming through. We have a new German grill and we will have a new Canadian stall.
"The Christmas Market is one of our first markets and we will keep fighting for it. It means everything to us, the traders and the people that go to it."
This year's Christmas Market will offer over 30 stalls selling food and gifts.