Belfast Telegraph

Prepare for no deal Brexit, say retail chiefs as exit from the EU nears

'Time is of the essence' with 100 days left until Brexit

Warning: Aodhan Connolly
Warning: Aodhan Connolly
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Business leaders in Northern Ireland today warn that firms should be prepared for a no-deal Brexit with just 100 days to go until the October 31 deadline.

Retail chiefs Aodhan Connolly and Glyn Roberts spoke as the Conservative Party prepares to confirm the identity of its new party leader, and Prime Minister, with Boris Johnson tipped to take the roles.

Mr Johnson has said he will take the UK out of the EU on October 31 come what may - increasing the fears of business that a no-deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome. According to the Department for Economy here, a crash-out could lead to the loss of 40,000 jobs.

And today, Irwin Armstrong of Ciga Healthcare - one of the few businesspeople in Northern Ireland who campaigned for Brexit - has said that a no-deal should be avoided as it was not in the interests of Northern Ireland's long-term economic future.

Meanwhile, Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, and Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, jointly warned members to prepare for no-deal. Mr Connolly said members should think about how they'll transport goods out of the province.

Businesses are expected to face a massive increase in bureaucracy in the event of a no-deal, with requirements including export health certificates from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Mr Connolly said: "Any product that goes across the border, should that be a sandwich or a pizza, will need an Export Health Certificate. Businesses will also need to inform the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs exactly what is being moved. If a product is made of several ingredients, exporters will have to prove the provenance of each of the ingredients which adds cost and complexity to the supply chain."

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And anyone wanting to trade into the Republic or EU is required to register for the Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) scheme.

Mr Roberts said the rate of sign-up for the scheme had been low in comparison with the rest of the UK.

And he said preparations could be a "make or break" matter for some firms. "It is hugely disappointing that the sign-up rate for the EORI scheme in Northern Ireland is nowhere near where it should be, even in comparison with the rest of the UK. It is essential that businesses start to engage with both DAERA and HMRC on these schemes, particularly micro and small businesses," he added.

Tina McKenzie, the Northern Ireland policy chair of the FSB NI, said the new Prime Minister needed to "get to work immediately and do all they can to find agreement". "Our members are becoming increasingly concerned about the practical implications of a no-deal Brexit with some now having to take costly steps to mitigate potential damage. However, most small businesses simply don't have the additional resources to make preparations, unlike larger businesses.

"In order to ensure an orderly exit from the EU and to avoid unnecessary economic harm, it is vital that a Withdrawal Agreement is ratified," she added.

Belfast Telegraph