Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland business leaders seek clarity on Brexit border issue

By Ryan McAleer

Business figures in Northern Ireland have said Theresa May must show quickly how an alternative arrangement to the backstop will deliver on her commitment to avoid a hard border on the island.

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The Prime Minister took part in a roundtable discussion with business organisations at Allstate's Belfast headquarters yesterday.

Most of those present had travelled to Downing Street last November to row in behind the Prime Minister in support of her Withdrawal Agreement.

But with Mrs May now openly seeking to change that agreement by amending the backstop provision, business representatives have demanded urgent clarity on how the Government plans to guarantee a frictionless border.

Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, said: "While we are grateful to the Prime Minister for this engagement in Belfast, we left her in no doubt as to the concerns of our members and shoppers not just in Northern Ireland but across the UK.

"It is time for the political games and brinkmanship to end.

"Any alternative arrangements must provide the same guarantee of continued frictionless, tariff-free trade and movement of people on the island of Ireland as the backstop does."

Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses said if the Withdrawal Agreement is to be changed, firms need to see practical alternatives on the table soon.

"While business is pragmatic about the means used to achieve an open border, it is paramount that frictionless trade can continue throughout these islands," she said.

Meanwhile, Newry Chamber of Commerce, which represents around 200 border businesses, expressed "disappointment" after it claimed it was excluded from yesterday's event.

"It will be businesses in the border that will be impacted most and it is unacceptable that the PM didn't take the opportunity to listen to the concerns of border businesses," said its chief executive Colm Shannon.

Belfast Telegraph

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