Hard border 'would be damaging to Northern Ireland builders'
A hard border on the island of Ireland would be damaging to the Northern Ireland construction sector, research said today.
And the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) called for the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland under the common travel area to be preserved following Brexit.
The construction sector employs 65,000 people in Northern Ireland with an annual output of around £2.4bn, the FMB said. It added that over half of construction SMES in the province indicated that a hard border would have a negative impact on buying products and materials from the Republic.
And around 40% said it would make it tougher to employ people from across the border.
One in three also said their margins had been squeezed since the vote to leave the EU, as the falling value of sterling had made their materials more expensive. Nearly one quarter of those surveyed also stated it had threatened the financial well-being of their businesses.
FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: "Our research clearly shows that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would dampen growth among construction SMEs.
"What we're calling for today is a return to the pre-1973 arrangement that saw the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland.
"There are more than 200 roads that criss-cross between NI and the Republic and up to 35,000 people commute from one side to the other every day.
"Your typical NI construction firm transports materials, products and labour from the Republic into Northern Ireland on a regular basis and anything that interferes with their ability to do that quickly and easily must be dealt with sensitively."