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NI business in plea for a new approach as crash-out now looming

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Tellers report the results of the vote

Tellers report the results of the vote

AFP/Getty Images

Tellers report the results of the vote

Business leaders here have warned that a no-deal Brexit is now a very real threat after the latest rejection of Theresa May's withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.

The Government's third attempt to win support for its Brexit deal was defeated by 58 votes yesterday afternoon, leaving April 12 as the new legal date for the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said: "This is yet another vote where MPs have told us what they don't want, not what they do. While they continue in their indecision, business and consumers across Northern Ireland see time trickling away towards leaving without a deal.

"A no-deal Brexit will fundamentally change how we do business in Northern Ireland, it will systematically disintegrate supply chains across these islands and it will mean cost rises for both businesses and households.

"MPs must recognise the stark reality of a no-deal Brexit and come together to find the mechanism to take no deal off the table completely."

Seamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association said there are now three potential outcomes for Brexit: A no-deal on April 12, a general election followed by a long extension to Article 50, or revocation of Article 50.

"A cliff-edge no-deal is now a very realistic threat to Northern Ireland and its economy. Who wants to own that car crash?" he said.

Glyn Roberts of Retail NI said the local business community was now "beyond frustrated".

"We are facing a national crisis and an all-party approach to finding a way forward is now needed," he argued.

Calling for "a much longer extension" to Article 50, he said a deal based upon a customs union and enhanced access to the single market stands a better chance of succeeding.

"Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be disastrous for our retail sector, causing delays in the supply chain, food shortages and potential higher prices for consumers," he added.

"Every element of the Northern Ireland business community, trade unions and voluntary sector is speaking with one very clear voice on Brexit - we need a deal."

ADS chief executive Paul Everitt, who speaks for the UK's aerospace sector, said: "The continued confusion in Government and Parliament has gone on for far too long and is costing industry millions of pounds in lost investment and preparations for the worst outcome of no deal.

"If there is still not sufficient support for the deal agreed between the UK Government and the European Union, we must then pause and reset this process.

"It is for Government and Parliament to decide the way forward, but the voice of UK businesses, their employees, customers and suppliers must be given greater priority."

Belfast Telegraph