Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Time to focus minds as Brexit clock ticks

CBI NI director Angela McGowan
CBI NI director Angela McGowan

Editor's Viewpoint

For many people, the very mention of the B-word, Brexit, is enough to make them turn away bored and fatigued.

After years of infighting, which has done little to enhance the reputations of our political classes, it is understandable that eyes glaze over when any talk about Brexit begins.

However, the reality is that the outcome of Brexit may dramatically affect all our lives. The headline figure in the latest CBI report discloses that the cost of a no-deal Brexit to the Northern Ireland economy would cost some £5billion by 2034.

This should be enough to make anyone with a stake in the well-being this place we call home sit up and listen to the dire warnings.

To describe the impact as "catastrophic" would not be an understatement. The consequences could be far-reaching and profound.

While it may be no surprise that Northern Ireland could be among the areas most exposed to any economic fall-out, the top line of a possible deficit of £5billion is shocking.

The reality of this would place a huge toll on jobs, people's livelihoods and living standards. Manufacturing activity would be impacted.

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With around 57 per cent of Northern Ireland's goods going to the EU, any resultant delays or added costs would hit Northern Ireland particularly hard.

There is the fear that only 60 permits would be available for Northern Ireland drivers to cross the border in a no-deal Brexit.

There is also fear in the farming community that a no-deal Brexit would severely penalise lamb and sheep production, as well as the dairy industry.

Despite the farmers' rejection of a no-deal Brexit, and support for Mrs May's deal, despite its flaws, the threat of a catastrophic exit from the EU has not gone away.

While both main unionist parties oppose the backstop, it is now time to fasten resolve to find a deal acceptable to all.

Today we are only 66 days away from Brexit, and in that time we should redouble the efforts to find a solution.

Counts are mounting, and more than £2million has been paid for utility bills at Stormont since the Executive collapsed two years ago.

Angela McGowan, the Northern Ireland director of the CBI, has rightly called for politicians to find consensus. Clearly, we find ourselves navigating a crisis, but let's not turn it into a catastrophe.

Belfast Telegraph


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