Belfast Telegraph

CBI hopeful Assembly can return after hustings events with parties

Impact: Josh Hardie
Impact: Josh Hardie

By Mark McConville

The potential £1bn cost of the lack of a functioning Executive will ultimately be felt in everyone's pockets, the deputy director general of the CBI has said.

Earlier this year the CBI said the cost to Northern Ireland of not having an Assembly would reach nearly £1bn by the end of the year.

And Josh Hardie said the cost will ultimately be felt in "everyone's pockets".

He labelled the combination of Brexit and the lack of an Executive as a "double whammy" for businesses here.

It has led to uncertainty and indecision that has had a "direct and meaningful impact" on growth and prosperity, he added.

But he said he regarded the general election as a "ray of hope".

"It can act as a catalyst to get people back around the table and get the Assembly functioning again," he said.

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"CBI NI have held two hustings over the last 10 days with all the parties and it has felt there is more determination to sort this out and get the Assembly up and running."

Mr Hardie also spoke of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal and the need for evidence to be reintroduced to politics with less ideology.

"The degree to which you support the Boris deal depends on what you think the alternative is," he said.

"If it is no deal then Boris' deal gets a cautious welcome, but everyone knows there is a risk it is a Trojan horse for a bare bones Brexit deal. Whoever forms the next Government needs to take the politics out of these conversations and bring evidence back in. We can then look at what really matters to the economy."

He also labelled a return to a harder border "kryptonite" for small businesses. "We need to make sure there is no return to a border. It would put unnecessary friction in the way of all the businesses that cross the border daily. It would also allow smugglers to distort the economy.

"Goods are critically important but we must not forget services. The issues of data and movement of people across the island but also into Europe are vital.

"Businesses have said their priorities are frictionless trade, a high level of alignment, access to people and a great deal on services."

The deputy director general also spoke of his hope for a stable Government after the general election that could focus on policies rather than campaigning.

"It is not CBI's job to back any particular party but we want one that has a better partnership with business," he said.

"Whoever wins the general election needs to dial down the politics and dial up the evidence and pragmatism.

"It needs to look at issues we have to tackle such as climate change, the reskilling of an entire workforce and tackling regional inequalities that are worse than in many parts of Europe."

Belfast Telegraph

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