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Northern Ireland hospitality trade backs draft Brexit deal as bodies step up pressure on DUP



Colin Neill

Colin Neill

Colin Neill

The body which represents Northern Ireland's pubs and drink trade has said a poll among its members showed 74% expressing support for the draft EU withdrawal agreement.

Hospitality Ulster polled 650 people involved in the local drinks trade over the weekend, with 181 responding to the SMS-based survey.

The question asked: "Based on your current understanding of the implications for your business, do you support acceptance of the current proposed agreement to leave the EU?"

A total of 134 businesses responded 'yes' (74%) with 47 responding 'no' (26%).

The hospitality body, led by Colin Neill, has already put on record its regret that the deal doesn't appear to open the door to its long-term goals of lowering VAT for tourism and abolishing Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Northern Ireland.

In a statement yesterday, Hospitality Ulster said: "We believe the current draft agreement is commercially better than a no-deal scenario and will support the wider domestic economy on which our members depend."

Business figures also responded yesterday to comments from DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who accused organisations voicing support for the draft deal of being "puppets of the Northern Ireland Office".

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The director of the Quarry Products Association in Northern Ireland, Gordon Best said: "We think for ourselves, we are certainly not puppets for others, we evaluate and risk assess any threats to our industry and economy."

Mr Wilson's comments came as more firms aired their support for the draft text. Bombardier, W&R Barnett and Brett Martin yesterday joined the list of business and farming groups supporting the deal.

Yesterday the Ulster Farmers Union issued a joint statement with its counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales, which said: "The draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, while not perfect, will ensure that there are no hard barriers on the day we leave the European Union, and will allow trade in agricultural goods and UK food & drink to continue throughout the transition period largely as before. This opportunity needs to be taken."

Danske Bank, which has topped the Belfast Telegraph's list of NI's top 100 businesses for the past four years, has also endorsed the deal, stating: "A no-deal scenario must be avoided and the proposed deal represents a positive step forward on the journey to a binding solution."