Belfast Telegraph

Alarm bells ringing over Brexit, business sector tells minister

Talks: Gordon Milligan
Talks: Gordon Milligan

By Mark McConville

The Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) has warned of "grave concerns" over the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

The warning came after a discussion with newly-appointed Northern Ireland Minister of State Nick Hurd at its Riddel Hall headquarters in Belfast.

Gordon Milligan, IoD NI chairman, said the concerns came from the impact a no-deal Brexit would have on the region, "given our unique position as the only part of the UK that will have a land border with the EU".

He added: "We were pleased to host one of the first meetings for Nick Hurd with local business organisations in his tenure as Minister of State.

"During a frank and honest discussion, we expressed the very real concerns of our members around the dangers of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

"The Department for the Economy has estimated more than 40,000 jobs would be put at risk in such a scenario.

"If they weren't already, alarm bells should be ringing.

"Skills shortages, already a major concern, are also expected to snowball, and with plans by the Home Office to agree a new £36,000 salary threshold for visas, access to migrant labour - upon which so many of our key employers rely - would be severely compromised.

"This is added to our already disadvantaged position in relation to the Apprenticeship Levy, into which many of our members pay despite being unable to access the benefits in line with competitors in Great Britain. This has to change.

"We urged the minister to do all in his power to address these issues and will continue to engage with him and others in positions of influence on behalf of our more than 1,000 members and the wider Northern Ireland economy."

The Institute of Directors was founded in 1903 and within three years was awarded a Royal Charter to support, represent and set standards for business leaders nationwide.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly warned that the UK will leave the EU by the October 31 deadline, with or without a deal.

The Prime Minister has demanded changes to the backstop mechanism within the Withdrawal Agreement from the EU before the UK returns to Brexit talks, but so far the Brussels bloc has refused to budge.

It has been reported that the Prime Minister is set to sign an act to repeal EU law in days, cementing the UK's plans to leave.

A no-deal Brexit means the UK would immediately leave the EU with no agreement in place about the "divorce" process or future trade deals.

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