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Brexit breakthrough: Northern Ireland businesses call for details to be ironed out 'swiftly'

By John Mulgrew

Businesses say a “breakthrough” on Brexit talks which could avoid a hard border is to be welcomed but say details still have to be ironed out “swifty”.

Prime Minister Theresa May has struck a last minute deal with the EU to move Brexit talks on to the next phase. There will be no "hard border" in Ireland and EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, will see their rights protected.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it “welcomes the ‘sufficient progress’ that has been made in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations”.

“Business will particularly welcome the commitment made towards no hard border on the island of Ireland, and they will also be relieved that the UK market, as well as the all island market, will be protected.

“But she said there are “details that need to be confirmed swiftly in the new year when negotiators move on to the big questions around our future trade relationship with the EU”.

“The mutual commitment to a transition period will support business confidence - however answers will be needed on what leaving the EU will mean exactly for regulation, customs, hiring, standards, tariffs and taxes. The job of the UK government and the European Commission now is to provide those answers – and do everything in their power to ensure vibrant trade between the UK, Ireland and other EU countries can continue.”

“Despite this morning’s agreement, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry would also like to comment that the Brexit negotiations still have a long way to run, and that this is an initial reaction. We will further study this agreement over the course of today and seek reaction from our members.”

Angela McGowan, CBI director in Northern Ireland, said “businesses in Northern Ireland will welcome news of today’s breakthrough and to negotiations moving on to the all-important second phase”.

“While it’s recognised that we remain some way from a comprehensive solution to the Irish border issue, companies will be pleased to see both sides make explicit commitments to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and to the seamless, frictionless trade both north/south and east/west that the CBI has called for,” she said.

“With further progress made on transition and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, we move a step closer to achieving the clarity and stability we need to protect jobs, improve living standards and deliver prosperity for all citizens in Northern Ireland.”

And Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) NI policy chair, Wilfred Mitchell, added: “Northern Ireland’s small businesses will be pleased to hear that finally it appears the Brexit talks are about to move onto the second stage. The focus must now shift to the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.

“This should include by early next year a guarantee that there will be no cliff-edge moment on Brexit day, but instead an orderly, time-limited transition period so that small firms only have one set of rule changes. The final deal must have as few barriers to trade as possible.”

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