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NI businesses call for negotiated settlement in protocol legislation


The UK Government has published new legislation to change the NI Protocol

The UK Government has published new legislation to change the NI Protocol


The UK Government has published new legislation to change the NI Protocol

Businesses in Northern Ireland have expressed fear over the impact of UK legislation to override the NI Protocol.

While the protocol has brought friction and additional costs to some businesses, others have found it has opened up new opportunities for trade with the Republic and EU.

Food companies in particular, such as Co Down sandwich maker Deli-Lites, have been able to boost their trade with the Republic as a result.

Stuart Anderson, head of public affairs at NI Chamber, said the legislation contained proposals which would help consumer-facing businesses.

But he added: “A careful balance must be struck to protect gains made to date by our exporters and agri-food sub-sectors. 

"The apparent shifting of risk onto NI businesses is a cause for particular concern.

“As our businesses fight the challenge of soaring inflation, it is incumbent on the EU and the UK to recommence discussions without any further delay.

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"We stand ready to play our part in supporting lasting solutions that work for NI businesses and households.”

Brian Reid, head of Deli-Lites in Warrenpoint, said the worst case scenario of a trade war if the legislation deepened the fall-out between the UK and EU was “the last thing we need”.

“The benefits of the protocol could be huge for NI and while it wasn’t perfect, negotiations can resolve anything that didn’t work,” he said.

“The UK Government acting like this is reckless and not in the interests of business here.”

Declan Gormley, head of ventilation systems firm Brookvent in Dunmurry, described the legislation as “unwelcome, unnecessary, unprecedented and unpredictable” in its potential impact. 

“A unilateral approach may appeal to certain elements of the Conservative Party but it won’t work in terms of reaching a considered solution that both the EU and the UK can accept which addresses the issues already identified and which everyone seems agreed can be resolved.

“This type of confrontational approach by the UK isn’t helpful, and from a trade and economic point of view could have serious implications if it provokes a trade war with the EU… 

“One has to hope that a more mature and considered approach by the UK Government will emerge in the time ahead leading to an agreed resolution that all parties can live with going forward.

“If not I fear the considerable economic benefits available to NI plc by the existence of the protocol will be lost.”

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, said: “Neither UK unilateral action nor EU inflexibility is helpful, introducing uncertainty amid an already weakening economic environment.

“Flexibility and compromise are needed from both sides. With political will a landing zone can undoubtedly be found — using insights from business to design durable, lasting solutions smoothing GB-NI trade flows.”

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