Northern Ireland's business groups have come together to give a cautious welcome to the proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement.
In a joint statement, groups representing businesses across Northern Ireland said the extended transition period in the new deal would allow "flexibility and time" for a new relationship with the EU to be established.
The comment comes after Northern Ireland's farmers called on Democratic Unionist MPs to consider voting in favour of the deal.Farmers and businesses urge DUP to rethink opposition to Brexit deal Nicola Sturgeon urged to ‘put business first’ and get behind Brexit deal
The business organisations representing CBI NI, small business group body FSB NI, directors group IoD NI, and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, said the draft withdrawal agreement "provides some much needed clarity that local businesses have been calling for".
Between them the groups represent the majority of businesses in membership organisations in Northern Ireland
“While by no means perfect, it provides a platform to move onto the critical next stage and allows work to begin on the formulation of a comprehensive future trade deal," the groups said.
“Crucially, the provision for an extended transition period offers our members the flexibility and time to adjust to a new relationship with the EU which they must be allowed to do in as smooth and orderly a manner as possible."
The statement added the proposed backstop was not intended as a permanent solution and states a no-deal Brexit "would be deeply damaging and would represent a very bad outcome for businesses, consumers and the economy as a whole".
"Accordingly, we are pleased to see this agreement and look forward to being involved in the next stages of the process as we move towards the future relationship,” it says.
In a separate statement on Friday the Ulster Farmers' Union, which represents thousands of farmers across the province, man of whom would traditionally vote DUP, called on the party to back the draft text.
The group's chief executive Wesley Aston told the Nolan Show a "no deal" scenario would be "absolutely disasterous" and urged the Conservative's confidence and supply partners to back the deal on those grounds.
A vote on the proposed Brexit deal will take place in the House of Commons in early December.