Failure to reach an agreement in the UK-EU Brexit talks could mean further disruption to the economy here, local political parties warned yesterday.
SDLP Brexit spokesman Matthew O'Toole called for the UK's Brexit transition period - due to end on December 31 this year - to be extended, while Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken said the UK and EU negotiating teams needed to "get the finger out".
And Sinn Fein Brexit spokesman Chris Hazzard said local businesses and farmers "needed certainty", as First Minister Arlene Foster told the BBC last night she was concerned that the UK-EU talks had "not been going particularly well".
The parties voiced their concerns as the latest round of UK-EU negotiations appeared to be deadlocked. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been "no significant areas of progress".
His UK counterpart David Frost said they would have to "intensify and accelerate" the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.
Both sides suggested the unwieldy system of remote meetings agreed because of coronavirus had reached its limit, and that face-to-face meetings would now be necessary.
Mr O'Toole said: "It's clear that no real progress is being made in UK-EU trade talks, which increases the risk of a crashout later this week.
"That will threaten families and businesses everywhere on these islands, but especially Northern Ireland."
Mr Aiken was concerned about the business impact of failed negotiations.
"The Northern Ireland business community has rightly pointed out the challenges and concerns that exist about the rapidly oncoming end of the Brexit transition period," the UUP leader said.
"It is clear that the shadow boxing over negotiation continues.
"It is now well past time that they got the finger out."