Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Northern Ireland business leaders urge MPs to focus on Brexit risks

Ann McGregor
Ann McGregor
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland’s new MPs have been urged to focus on mitigating the effects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

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And business chiefs said the results of the general election made a swift return to devolved government even more crucial.

The election result and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s significant majority makes Brexit at the end of January an almost-certainty — but the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said the win shouldn’t be used to push through a deal that’s disruptive to business.

Ann McGregor, its chief executive, said: “This election result is a vote to end paralysis, not a mandate to force through a deal that would be disruptive to business. The business community will be calling on the Prime Minister to provide swift certainty about what Brexit means and time to prepare for and implement it.

“The Prime Minister’s current deal, which effectively gives Northern Ireland two borders, should be a concern for all of us – not just business leaders and employers. Politicians from all parties, and anyone with a vested interest in the Northern Ireland economy, need to recognise the major risks to business growth and job creation and the serious consequences for young people seeking a career in Northern Ireland.”

She said firms had been held back by Brexit uncertainty and economic growth was mediocre.

The government needed to get the “signals and substance” right to give firms the confidence to invest.

She added: “It is very important that our representatives in Westminster stand up for Northern Ireland and that the upcoming talks process results in the immediate return of an Executive at Stormont. Another election would simply exacerbate the problem.”

Seamus Leheny

Seamus Leheny, the Northern Ireland director of the Freight Transport Association, said: “A significant majority of MPs from NI will now be against Brexit. Their focus must be on mitigating the effects of the impending withdrawal agreement and Irish protocol for NI trade.”

Stephen Kelly, the head of Manufacturing NI, said the deal was going to bring barriers to trade with Great Britain.

“It is critical that our new MPs work together to derogate, mitigate and legislate to protect our place in the UKs internal market.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI

“Do that and we can benefit from continuing to have tariff, quota and customs free access to the EU market.

“More locally, the message to all the parties is that we want them to work together at Westminster but particularly get Stormont back up and running. There are very dangerous months ahead and the people getting paid today for an honest week‘s work want our politicians back and legitimately earning the wages they will receive.”

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