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Northern Ireland businesses must voice Brexit fears, says Coveney

Plea: Simon Coveney
Plea: Simon Coveney

By Lisa Smyth and Laura Larkin

The Irish Foreign Minister has urged businesses in Northern Ireland to speak out about the dangers of a hard Brexit.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has called on the business community here to become more vocal about the potential detrimental effects of a no-deal scenario before it is too late to take action.

Mr Coveney said it was not about 'Project Fear', but 'Project Truth', adding: "I think business needs to be more vocal.

"What we don't want in six months' time is to have a no-deal scenario or a deal that is damaging to business, and then to have business leaders coming out and saying, 'Why didn't we come out and say this earlier?'

"Now is the time to speak up."

He made the comments in an interview with the Sunday Business Post, conducted at a hotel in Monaghan which was hosting a Brexit Ready event last week. His appeal comes as the negotiations for withdrawal reach their final stages, with the issue of the Irish border proving the biggest hurdle, causing major headaches for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Last week, the deputy leader of the DUP, Nigel Dodds, issued a stark warning to Mrs May that his party will withdraw support for the Conservatives if they are unhappy with the exit deal reached with the EU.

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Meanwhile, Micheal Martin is standing by a pledge to prop up Leo Varadkar's government until a Brexit deal is concluded.

That's despite what the Fianna Fail leader termed a "chronic lack of planning and preparation around Brexit".

However, Mr Martin left the door open for a General Election in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit deal, stating the review of his party's Confidence and Supply arrangement with Fine Gael will govern that.

He reiterated it would be "reckless" to have an election in the midst of such volatility in the UK.

He also appeared to dismiss the suggestion of extending the deal to 2020 with an agreed election date as "Leo's agenda".

Speaking after he delivered a speech at the party's annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration, Mr Martin indicated that his offer for an amnesty until after Brexit - which he described as "reasonable" - still stands.

Negotiating teams from both parties are to meet in the coming days to begin a review process of the Confidence and Supply deal that has facilitated the minority Fine Gael government since 2016.

Belfast Telegraph