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Gordon Best: 'We think for ourselves, we are certainly not puppets'


Gordon Best
Gordon Best

By Gordon Best

The supply of construction materials is essential to so many sectors within our Northern Ireland economy, particularly housebuilding, farming, transport - and of course new infrastructure for indigenous business and inward investors.

We have taken the time to read and study the withdrawal agreement legal text, the explainer documents, the political declaration and the protocol for NI and Ireland.

While we have identified some concerns around the VAT regime, influence of the European Court of Justice and citizens' rights - which we are seeking clarification on - we have come to the unanimous view that this agreement offers the best outcome available to Northern Ireland businesses, our workers, families and the stability of our society.

While never cheerleaders of EU directives and legislation, we have worked closely with our Westminster MPs and MEPs over the years to lobby against the worst excesses of bureaucracy and in particular the negative impact of aggregates levy in Northern Ireland, and we recognise and appreciated their support.

However, we think for ourselves. We are certainly not puppets for others, we evaluate and risk assess any threats to our industry and economy.

Unfortunately, on this occasion we have to take issue with the position of those who oppose the withdrawal agreement.

For us, we have to deal with and base our decisions on the economic realities that a no deal will thrust upon us, against the benefits of unfettered access to both UK and EU markets.

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To us it is quite clear that, while not perfect, the withdrawal agreement is a temporary arrangement to see us through the implementation period up to December 2020, when we should have a comprehensive and favourable trade agreement with the EU.

The most important result of the withdrawal agreement is that, if agreed by Parliament, it gives a degree of certainty going forward and it removes the threat of a catastrophic no deal outcome that would be so damaging to our local economy and in particular to major sectors who are customers of our construction material suppliers.

In the event of a no deal, the immediate disruption to cross-border trade would impact on the construction sector here by the fact that 80% of the cement we use in Northern Ireland comes from the Irish Republic and many of our roads contractors work on local council contracts in the Republic.

Our construction material contracting and materials handling sector is very dependent on EU nationals' labour and a no deal would create great uncertainty for them.

Most importantly we, like many others within the business community and indeed a number of political representatives, recognise that economically we in Northern Ireland will have unfettered access to both EU and UK markets.

Gordon Best is regional director of the Quarry Products Association NI

Belfast Telegraph