Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Politicians must heed words of businesses

Editor's Viewpoint

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson stirred something of a hornets nest with his ill-considered branding of the business community here as the "puppets of the Northern Ireland Office" because they supported the Prime Minister's exit plan.

President of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ellvena Graham, while making it clear that the business community was not the enemy of those opposed to the deal - she did not mention the DUP by name - did throw down a direct challenge.

It was now time for them to show their hand and reveal their alternatives.

In a hard-hitting speech, she said it was also time for the critics to end their Brexit bickering which, in part, was responsible for holding back the local economy.

For the past two years, she pointed out, business had to endure uncertainty and non-stop political debate.

The deal on offer is infinitely better than a no deal, she added. It should be remembered that the business community, which showed incredible resilience during nearly 30 years of terrorism is not easily cowed and also knows a good deal from a bad one.

Indeed it could be argued that the it is this sector of the community which is best placed to pass a fair judgement on the deal on offer and what it means for the everyday life of people here.

But Ms Graham saved her most severe criticism for our stay-away politicians at Stormont. She questioned if they really cared about their duties.

Seldom has there been such plain speaking from someone in the business community.

She referred to our exclusive story last week which showed that there at least 160 decisions on in-trays at Stormont departments awaiting ministerial approval or denial.

These cover virtually every facet of life in Northern Ireland.

Very often the business community - the engine room of the economy - has remained silent on political issues but it is now obvious that they have been dragged into an arena which they don't feel entirely comfortable in.

They know they will have to work with politicians in the future and, unlike the political parties, they don't want to create a toxic debate.

However it is also evident they feel Brexit is an issue which cannot be ignored and on which they feel particularly qualified to pass comment.

But their approach is constructive and that is a lesson our politicians should learn.

Belfast Telegraph

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