No-deal a nightmare for Northern Ireland businesses, warns entrepreneur Paul Stewart
A no-deal Brexit would have a disastrous effect on businesses across Northern Ireland, the founder of a Belfast-based luggage shipping service has warned.
Paul Stewart, who set up MyBaggage.com, said he was concerned that his company would not survive if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.
He said that the only way businesses such as his would avoid "crippling" bureaucracy and costs was if a free trade agreement remained in place after the UK left the EU.
"For a business based in Northern Ireland, Brexit is obviously a very serious issue," Mr Stewart explained.
"The hoops that we have to jump through when exporting outside of the EU currently take up a considerable amount of time for us.
"If those same hurdles applied to our business with all European countries too, it would be an absolute nightmare.
"As we border the Republic of Ireland, the backstop, if it is in place, may be some relief if Brexit does happen. It would still be less than ideal, however.
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"I'm still hopeful that we won't leave the EU because it will be a disaster for businesses in Northern Ireland.
"Assuming Brexit does go ahead, we need to make sure that we have a comprehensive trade deal in place."
MyBaggage.com, which provides a door-to-door delivery service typically used by students, holidaymakers and people moving away, was set up 10 years ago.
Mr Stewart said that since the Brexit referendum in 2016, his company has been working hard to try and mitigate the effects of leaving the EU.
However, he stressed that preparations had been hampered by a lack of information relating to the possible negatives of withdrawal.
"I don't accept the line that we don't need to worry," Mr Stewart explained.
"The Government does provide certain guidelines, but nobody really seems to know what is going to happen, so we've been making changes to the way our business operates as we just can't take any chances.
"We have done things like launching in the US, which was a new market for us.
"There is so much more paperwork to be done when a package is being delivered outside of the EU and we don't know how the process is going to change once Brexit happens.
"It is likely that each country will have a different procedure.
"There will be delays and there will also be additional costs, but we don't know the exact details."