New post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland offer lots of opportunities for the region, a senior partner in KPMG has said.
Johnny Hanna, who heads up the global accountancy firm’s operations in Belfast, acknowledged the Northern Ireland Protocol had caused some disruption in its early weeks of operation.
However, Mr Hanna expressed optimism that issues would be resolved in the months ahead, as businesses “get to grips” with the new regulatory and customs processes on shipping goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Looking to the future, he said the protocol, which gives Northern Ireland companies unfettered access to sell into both the GB and EU markets, could prove beneficial.
Mr Hanna was commenting after KPMG announced 200 new jobs in Belfast.
While stressing the jobs and accompanying establishment of a new centre of excellence in the city were not influenced by Brexit, he did express confidence that Northern Ireland could capitalise on the arrangements created by the protocol.
“We all recognise that there are many challenges at the moment and the disruptions we’re going to need to address some of them, certainly on the GB-NI part of it,” Mr Hanna told the PA news agency.
“But there’s lots of opportunities would be my view. I think once things settle down and we get a bit of time.
“I think that’s the biggest issue we’ve had is that all this got thrown up at us at the 11th hour (announcement on the new arrangements) and it’s going to take businesses I suspect many months – and that’s businesses here and businesses in GB and also on the EU side – to get to grips with effectively that they’re now dealing in a totally new kind of regime than they were before.
“I think if you kind of stand back and look at it I think there’s definitely room for some optimism.”
Mr Hanna highlighted the potential benefits of being able to access the two markets.
“I think the access to both markets I think has to be out there front and centre,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve lots of businesses in Northern Ireland who just got on with things because they’re trading all-island or they’re trading with the EU, so they’ve had no change.
“But I think that ability to access the UK market, so selling from Northern Ireland into GB, is very beneficial relative to the position for businesses down south or in the EU who are facing significant challenges and upheaval around the custom rules and procedures.
“So that’s a positive, the question is how do we capitalise on that?”