Belfast Telegraph

No-deal Brexit will put 40,000 Northern Ireland jobs at risk, says report

Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson
Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson
Nigel Dodds
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

A no-deal Brexit could put at least 40,000 jobs at risk in Northern Ireland and have a profound and long-lasting impact on the economy and society, a new Stormont paper has said.

The Department for the Economy yesterday released statistics compiled by the Civil Service on the implications of a no-deal scenario here.

It states that the UK's withdrawal from the EU without a deal would have "immediate and severe consequences" for Northern Ireland's competitiveness, adding that many jobs could "disappear almost overnight".

It says: "The impact of EU tariffs and non-tariff barriers will mean that whatever the Irish Government or the EU may do or not do, many businesses will no longer be able to export to the Irish market."

Heavily regulated sectors such as agri-food and pharmaceuticals will be particularly vulnerable.

Exports to the Republic were worth £832m for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry in 2016. The report says there is a "significant danger" that most of this trade could stop.

Tariffs on cross-border trade could see an 11% to 19% drop in total cross-border exports, equating to a loss of £100m to £180m a year for the economy.

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The increased restrictiveness on the services sector could result in the loss of £120m worth of exports over the border and £50m in exports to the rest of the EU.

Northern Ireland's ability to attract overseas investment would also be affected.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, said the figures highlighted the need for a deal to be reached.

"Our economy cannot be anyone's experiment and it cannot be sacrificed for the sake of party politics. This isn't just about the economy, it is about jobs and families. For their sake we need this to be about people not politics," he said.

Director of the CBI in Northern Ireland, Angela McGowan, said the statistics came as little surprise. She called on the next Prime Minister to put every effort into agreeing an exit deal.

"This has to be their top priority," she said. "Otherwise, citizens and politicians will discover when it is too late that we will be facing economic gridlock for years to come."

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the analysis backed up warnings from the business community here.

"Losing 40,000 jobs would devastate the local economy and have a huge impact on spending in the retail sector," he said.

"A no-deal Brexit should not even be remotely considered by the UK Government.".

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been told to expect a legal battle with former Tory prime minister Sir John Major if he tries to suspend Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.

Sir John said it would be "utterly and totally unacceptable" for any UK premier to shut down Parliament, and he would seek a judicial review if it happened.

Mr Johnson dismissed Sir John's "very odd" threat of being dragged through the courts, insisting that Parliament should accept its responsibility to deliver Brexit. But he has refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal exit from the European Union on October 31.

The Tory leadership campaign frontrunner said: "What we are going to do is deliver Brexit on October 31, which is what I think the people of this country want us to get on and do."

Elsewhere, the DUP's Nigel Dodds has said threats of a hard Irish border were only ever an EU negotiating tactic by Dublin.

He was speaking after Tánaiste Simon Coveney conceded there will have to be physical inspections for livestock and agri-food products - but insisted they will not take place at the border.

It is understood the Irish government is in talks with the European Commission about allowing checks at the 'point of arrival' in order to keep the border open. This is likely to involve veterinary checks at factories and other food processing facilities.

Dublin is concerned that if checks aren't introduced, the Republic will risk being "forced out of the single market against our will". But Mr Coveney insisted: "We are not going to put checks on the border or close to it."

Mr Dodds said that for several years a so-called hard border "has been held up as inevitable should the UK leave the European Union without a deal".

"Such threats have only ever been a negotiating tactic, not least because a so-called hard border was impossible to create with 20,000 soldiers based in Northern Ireland during the Troubles," he said. "Simon Coveney's comments are a final acceptance of this fact. It is a shame however that the charade was carried on for so long when sensible and practical steps could have been developed."

Belfast Telegraph