The EU should "come to the table and start taking our Chequers proposals very seriously" the Leader of the House of Commons has told a top business event in Belfast.
The Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies dinner, with sponsor A&L Goodbody, saw dozens of those making the list attend a grand gala dinner at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
They heard from guest speaker Andrea Leadsom, who restated the Government's commitment to no hardening of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and its determination to not have any customs border between NI and the rest of the UK.
"I am fully aware of your concerns as business leaders in relation to Brexit, particularly in relation to the border," she told her audience at the Ulster Museum.
"I know the success of many of your businesses, and your day-to-day lives, relies on frictionless trade and travel across the border. Let me assure you that we don't want this arrangement to change when we leave the EU.”
The event also heard from Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew, who said companies across Northern Ireland were exhausted due to the deadlock at Stormont, and remain concerned over what damage a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario could have on their bottom line.
“It’s quite clear that anything that leaves us with a ‘no deal’ scenari, in simplistic terms, is not going to work, or be acceptable to you, and thousands of other businesses across Northern Ireland,” he said.
And speaking about the lack of an Executive, he said: “Everyone here knows it’s not acceptable. Everyone here is tired talking about it, and wants it sorted now, rather than when it’s convenient for those who are supposed to be here to govern us.”
Michael Neill, head of Belfast office at A&L Goodbody, said that since the Top 100 two years ago, little had progressed in how Brexit would be dealt with.
“We would all have hoped that by now we would have some sense of what the future business environment might look like. But, sadly, that is not the case.
“Every day at A&L Goodbody, we’re getting calls from companies of all sizes, right across the Island of Ireland and beyond who are seeking some sense of clarity on Brexit-related legal matters.
“That means, every single day, we hear that NI Plc is still grappling with that same ‘great unknown’ Mark spoke of at this event two years ago.
"And when you add to this the political deadlock and over 600 days without a local government, it's no wonder our clients and the wider business community find ourselves in a very challenging situation.”
The Ulster Business Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies magazine is the leading list of the region’s top businesses, ranked by turnover.
Overall, pre-tax profits among those making the list grew by 79%, rising to £924.9m
And turnover among the Top 100 increased by 9%, to just shy of £24bn.
Moy Park kept the top spot, for the seventh year running, with turnover of £1.4bn. And since publication, that turnover has grown further still.