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Coronavirus: Businesses call for all-Ireland co-operation to help recovery


Director general of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Director general of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ibec’s Danny McCoy

Ibec’s Danny McCoy

Director general of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Top business groups in the UK and Ireland have called for the Taoiseach and First and deputy First Ministers to co-operate to protect public health and restore prosperity following Covid-19.

The CBI in the UK and the Republic's Ibec have today written a joint letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and to First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

They are urging co-operation and co-ordination across the UK and Ireland "to provide the best chance of protecting public health and restoring people's prosperity".

A memorandum of understanding for North-South co-operation on public health was signed by the departments of health in Northern Ireland and the Republic earlier this month.

But today's letter calls for economic co-operation to help the recovery.

Ibec and the CBI said that it was in everyone's interests for experts on both sides of the border to be in regular communication about each other's plans for economic revival, including for all-island business and cross-border employment.

They also suggest that parallel conversations should take place between the UK and Republic, suggesting the North/South Ministerial Council and British-Irish Council as the framework for talks.

And talks on co-ordination could also be held through meetings of the Tanaiste, First and deputy First Minister and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, it suggests.

The letter is signed by the CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn and Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy.

It states that both organisations have been working through "one of the most challenging periods for business that we can recall".

It stresses existing and historic economic and political links between the UK and Ireland, including through the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area.

It adds: "As the coming weeks unfold, we all hope to make great progress with efforts to both suppress the virus and start planning for that much needed economic reboot. The business community is acutely aware of the deep economic impact on business and livelihoods that the measures to contain Covid-19 have had across these islands."

It said that integrated supply chains for essential goods like medicines and pharmaceuticals were of immediate concern, and accounted for substantial trade between Ireland and the UK.

"The agri-food market across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is at the forefront of all island business and indeed across the two islands agri-food products trade seamlessly - with Ireland being the UK's second largest source of food imports and one of its largest markets for retail related exports.

"To support these supply chains and ensure that the measures taken in the recovery phase help to sustain the wide range of business activity between the two jurisdictions, we will need the highest level of co-operation, co-ordination and joined-up thinking.

"A return to daily movement of workers and goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland (and across the two islands) will depend on the easing of current restrictions and alignment with medical advice.

"To support and re-energise the strong economic linkages, Ibec and CBI believe it is important and in everyone's economic interests to have the experts on both sides of the island of Ireland regularly communicating on their respective economic restart plans."

Belfast Telegraph