British and Irish chambers make joint plea to London and Brussels
Two-out-of-five companies in Northern Ireland would move part or all of their business to the EU in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit, according to one of the biggest business surveys conducted since the 2016 referendum.
The findings come as the NI Chamber, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Chambers Ireland, who represent thousands of businesses, meet in Dublin today.
They are joining forces to call on London and Brussels to redouble their efforts in the ongoing negotiations to ensure a clear agreement can be reached to ensure a continuity of trade between the regions.
The new BCC study suggests one-third of companies here would also revise investment and recruitment plans in a no deal scenario. Almost one-fifth (18%) said they have already noticed a decrease in the value of EU contracts, while 17% reported the numbers of their employees from the EU are down.
The groups have warned the Government and the 27 EU Member States that they must ensure a transition period from March 29, 2019 to allow both businesses and governments to prepare for change and any new terms of trade.
With just six months to go, the new survey found that just over half (59%) of firms here that trade across the border are already preparing for possible changes post-Brexit.
The number is even lower in Britain, where just 37% of companies that trade over the Irish Sea are preparing for new arrangements.
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The head of the NI Chamber, Ann McGregor, said the body has been clear from the June 2016 referendum that whatever agreement is reached it must result in no 'hard' border with the Republic - or in the Irish Sea.
"Being able to trade as freely as possible with limited bureaucracy, along with the free movement of people, is vitally important for growing the Northern Ireland economy," she said.
"The build up to the UK leaving the EU has been having a largely negative impact on Northern Ireland businesses in terms of costs, sales, non-national jobs and investment plans in particular.
"In fact, the recent British Chambers of Commerce findings show that Brexit is a much bigger issue for Northern Ireland based businesses compared to the rest of the UK.
"It is vital that politicians on all sides get an agreement over the line as soon as possible to provide businesses with the much needed certainty that is required for them to plan ahead."