Belfast Telegraph

Expensive food and red tape at the border: Businesses and politicians react to No Deal Brexit plan

Businesses and politicians have reacted to the Government's proposed 'no-deal' Brexit plan, with concerns raised about the potential damage it could cause to trade and business in the province.

On Thursday, the Government released its 24 technical papers on the possibility of the United Kingdom exiting the European Union without an agreement in place.

Some of the most eye-catching points included UK citizens living in mainland Europe possibly losing their pensions and other financial services, and the cost of shopping potentially increasing with the removal of an EU ban on credit and debit card surcharges.

The main takeaway for businesses in Northern Ireland was advice to contact the Irish Government to discuss potential no-deal Brexit arrangements.

On Thursday, Northern Ireland businesses were told by Brexit secretary Dominic Raab to speak to the Irish government for advice in the case of a no deal Brexit.

Responding to the publication of the planning papers, chief executive of business representative body Retail NI Glyn Roberts said it was the "right course of action for the UK Government to publish these papers" but that his organisation was concerned "a no Brexit deal could result in higher food prices, increased delays and red tape at borders and a possible VAT hike for consumers and businesses".

 “A no deal would have huge negative impacts not just for Northern Ireland, but the UK economy as a whole,” he added.

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Dominic Raab discusses plans for a no-deal Brexit (Peter Nicholls/PA)

Peter Legge, tax partner at leading business advisory firm Grant Thornton Northern Ireland, said: “Should a business only plan for one scenario, it should plan for No Deal. It is the most disruptive and could be reality in less than eight months.

“In addition to anticipating the economic impact and what any new tax and customs arrangements may be, businesses must prepare for the effect on their suppliers and supply chain, their people and workforce, as well as the legalities around data and other regulations."

Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), said: “Today’s [Thursday] Brexit papers have two key outcomes for Northern Ireland businesses – it confuses them more and increases their costs.

“This, in tandem with the lack of key infrastructure decisions that can be made here, amplifies the need for an Executive to return to represent Northern Ireland at this critical time.”

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he had spoken to Secretary of State Karen Bradley after the publication of the planning papers, and was seeking clarification on certain issues around trade - specifically in reference to the recommendation to consult the Irish government.

“As Unionists we have always been acutely aware of the economic importance of access to the UK’s internal market, but we also recognise and welcome the extent of cross border trade with the Republic of Ireland," he said.

"As we approach the endgame in terms of Brexit negotiations, it is essential that as much clarity and certainty as possible are reached with regard to trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic."

SDLP Brexit spokesperson Claire Hanna raised the lack of a 'backstop' agreement in Thursday's planning papers.

“The absence of the backstop in any of today’s [Thursday] publications is an extremely worrying development; though far from a panacea, it was the only protection given to us in the event of crashing out of the EU," she said.

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