Northern Ireland businesses voice fear at no-deal Brexit as DUP says it won’t be ‘railroaded’ on vote
An open letter signed by more than 60 of Northern Ireland’s biggest businesses has warned that a no-deal Brexit would stifle the next generation’s opportunities.
The letter was penned by the CBI and signed by companies including Coca-Cola, Bombardier Aerospace, Norbrook Laboratories, which produces veterinary drugs, and defence firm Thales.
It said a no-deal exit will result in significant damage to export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power and the country’s competitiveness.
The DUP’s East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson accused the employers of “a coordinated attempt to railroad MPs into accepting the toxic, Union-destroying, NI economy-damaging deal” facing a crunch Commons vote tomorrow.
The letter comes the week after head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling suggested a no-deal Brexit could cause a sharp rise in unemployment here as businesses relocate to the Republic.
But DUP Brexit spokesman Mr Wilson, whose party has been at loggerheads with the local business community over its position on leaving the EU, said: “In the run-up to the vote on leaving the EU which will take place on Tuesday, it is clear that there is a coordinated attempt to railroad MPs into accepting the toxic, Union-destroying, NI economy-damaging deal, which the Prime Minister had previously agreed with the EU.
“Last week the head of the Civil Service entered the political arena with his ham-fisted, chaos threatening letter and now we find that businesses in NI are engaging in the same tactic.
“What is particularly odd about the business letter is that first of all it concentrates on damage to the NI economy.
“This comes from a non-existent threat of infrastructure along the border, while ignoring the explicit terms of the withdrawal agreement.
“Those terms would exclude NI businesses from having any benefit from trade agreements which the UK might strike with the rest of the world, in the future and, more immediately, it would make it difficult for firms to trade with the GB market.”
Mr Wilson said the letter “ignores the role of the EU in the current impasse”.
“Despite the Government of the UK rolling over to every demand the EU has made, EU negotiators have showed no flexibility at all to MPs across the political spectrum in Parliament,” he said. “Indeed this week Barnier reinforced his inflexibility towards NI. He believes NI must be separated from the UK in future relationships with the EU. When it comes to flexibility we have already as a party, with our allies in the Conservative Party, sought to find a number of ways around the obstacles to a deal.”
Tory Brexiteers have predicted that without an 11th hour concession from the EU on the backstop, the Prime Minister is heading for another crushing defeat in tomorrow’s “meaningful vote” on her withdrawal agreement.
Mr Wilson added: “It is important that businesses in NI do not simply fall into line with the Government’s attempt to foist a really bad deal on the UK because of its incompetence in negotiations.
“They should also understand that we have used all of our contacts, abilities and Parliamentary strength to defend not only the Union but also the interests of businesses in Northern Ireland. That will be our guiding light when deciding how we will vote on Tuesday.” The letter penned by the CBI, whose chief is Angela McGowan, stated that they “believe that failure to approve a deal with Europe on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have significant repercussions for the local economy”.
“Such a scenario will both hinder indigenous and foreign direct investment, it would result in significant job losses and will stifle opportunities for the next generation across Northern Ireland.”
It said the negative economic impact was already starting to affect the private sector’s ability to invest. Northern Ireland industry also noted “with much regret” uncertainty around future funding for local infrastructure given the immediate loss of approximately £450m from the European Regional Development Fund, which was once earmarked for significant infrastructure projects.
“The uncertainty linked with Brexit has additionally contributed to significant skill and labour shortages.”
It said peace and prosperity were mutually dependent in Northern Ireland.
“A no-deal Brexit will undoubtedly result in creating regulatory and tariff differences across the island of Ireland and will therefore have direct consequences for border checks and crossings.
“We therefore urge MPs across the UK to consider the damaging impact on Northern Ireland’s economy and political stability in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“The peace and economic progress that flowed from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement cannot be overlooked at this critical time in the UK’s history.
“All members of Parliament must consider the burden of responsibility that they now carry for this region’s future.”
Firms that signed the letter
AES UK and Ireland
Andras House Ltd
Aurora Prime Real Estate Ltd
Avondale Foods Ltd
Beyond Business Travel
Canyon Europe Ltd
Chartered Accountants Ulster Society
Coca-Cola Hellenic Northern Ireland Ltd
Construction Employers Federation
Creagh Concrete Products
Denman International Ltd
Devenish Nutrition Ltd
Duncrue Food Processors
Eakin Healthcare Group
First Trust Bank
Forde May Consulting Ltd
Greiner Packaging Ltd
Hilton Meat Products Ltd
McCloskey International Ltd
Mineral Products Association NI
Mount Charles Group Ltd
Norbrook Laboratories Ltd
Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Ltd
O’Hare and McGovern Ltd
Queen’s University Belfast
Quinn Building Group
SDC Trailers Ltd
T G Eakin Ltd
W&R Barnett Ltd
Westland Horticulture Ltd
White’s Speedicook Ltd
Wilsons Country Ltd