Belfast Telegraph

Restoring Stormont Executive an urgent priority: CBI chief

By Margaret Canning

One of the most senior figures in the business world in the UK has said restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland "couldn't be more urgent".

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI in Northern Ireland, said she had held a meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy, in the absence of a minister in the role.

Ms Fairbairn, who visited Northern Ireland and the Republic last week, said she had "shared thoughts on the economy" with Dr Andrew McCormick.

"I think one of the biggest priorities now is to restore the devolved administration and the Executive. It couldn't be more urgent," she said.

"For firms that uncertainty is such a brake on investment and confidence. Restoration of the devolved administration needs to happen as soon as possible."

She said she had held a meeting with member firms in Northern Ireland, including dairy companies, and that Brexit was a source of anxiety.

"There is real concern about the shape of a Brexit deal and the importance of ensuring that there is no hard border," she said.

"It's a really pressing business question because we have so many small firms and SMEs, including milk producers, who depend on an open border."

Ms Fairbairn travelled to the Republic where she held a meeting with Ibec, the CBI's counterpart in Ireland.

And she said she believed the groups' shared message of the need to avoid a hard border would be listened to in London.

"There is a listening ear in Westminster," she said.

And on a journey down south by car, she said she had remarked on the smoothness of crossing into the Republic.

"The moment we crossed that borderless border, we felt how remarkable and important that is. It is something that cannot be taken for granted, for the impact it has had on the prosperity of the island," she said.

Belfast Telegraph