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Brexit: CBI boss urges common sense approach to talks in bid to avoid hard Irish border

By Michelle Weir

CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn has urged politicians to take a common sense approach on border negotiations ahead of Brexit.

The senior business boss was visiting Belfast to attend the annual CBI dinner at the Waterfront Hall last night.

Ms Fairbairn, the body's director general, stressed that a solution that is both "practical and common sense" must be reached to enable "another step forward".

She urged the British Government to be mindful of businesses that have input on both sides of the border when reaching a decision.

Ms Fairbairn said: "Businesses can influence and governments present evidence but we need politicians to act."

She underlined the need for "full understanding" of what it is like to be a business here.

"Our recommendation is that the whole UK should remain in some form of a customs union to be negotiated, a new form of agreement, that would not only solve the issue of the border but would be a major step forward for the whole of the UK.

"The early indication is that this would be of benefit to the whole of the UK, not just here in Northern Ireland.

"It is vitally important to remain in a customs union.

"What we aspire to see is that there is an examination of evidence in Parliament and in constituencies across the country that recognises the common sense solution.

"We are not political. We are practical. This is what is coming from grassroots across the United Kingdom.

"I know from businesses across Europe that this would be valued by European businesses as well.

"This is a win-win situation.

"A customs union would be a shared common external tariff which means we have the same tariff as Europe to the outside world.

"For those who would argue that this prevents us from building our trade around the world, this is an enormous opportunity to build trade in China and India and across the Commonwealth."

She has warned of damage to a "generation of progress" if a hard border is implemented which would lead to a "loss of trade, loss of growth and a loss of jobs".

She reported that 160,000 jobs had been created since the Good Friday Agreement.

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