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'Impatience of Northern Ireland firms growing' over Brexit border talks disarray

By John Mulgrew

Businesses in Northern Ireland are becoming increasingly impatient that negotiations have still failed to secure a soft and frictionless trade border with the Republic, one industry chief has warned.

Earlier this week business groups welcomed a leaked draft deal that could have seen Northern Ireland avoid a hard border after Brexit.

However, a potential agreement was scuppered on Monday amid a backlash from the DUP, with leader Arlene Foster warning the party would not accept "any form of regulatory divergence" from the rest of the UK. Speaking at the CBI's quarterly council meeting, Northern Ireland director Angela McGowan said a seamless border between north and south, and east and west, was needed.

"Business leaders are united - they want to see Brexit talks move onto the next phase as quickly as possible and are becoming increasingly impatient that negotiators can't find a way through the deadlock on future trading arrangements, citizens' rights and the financial settlement," she added.

"Prevarication is getting us nowhere, the people of Northern Ireland need clarity now.

"We find ourselves in serious danger of not only losing out on much-needed foreign investment but of facing the real prospect of fantastic companies making the reluctant choice to move away from Northern Ireland.

"Business needs a clear statement of intent from both the UK and European Union that the end goal is the seamless, frictionless trade both east/west and north/south that Northern Ireland needs to prosper.

"Choosing between one or the other is not an option.

"If we're serious in our ambition of becoming a modern, forward-looking and competitive economy, we absolutely have to get this right.

"It's no dramatic overstatement to say that any misstep will put jobs and prosperity at risk.

"We've worked hard to secure the peace and stability we now enjoy - Brexit cannot be allowed to knock us off course."

Yesterday, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, one of the most prominent Brexiteers in Theresa May's Cabinet, said he still remained optimistic a resolution could be found.

Earlier this week Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce president Ellvena Graham said businesses now needed clarity and pragmatism from negotiators.

Meanwhile, Seamus Leheny, of the Freight Transport Association, said the proposals could "help attract inward investment" with Northern Ireland "a bridge between the UK and European Union".

Belfast Telegraph

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