Top Northern Ireland firms warn PM of a no-deal 'disaster'
Some of Northern Ireland's biggest firms have weighed into the Brexit debate by signing a letter calling on the government to avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
Bombardier, Coca-Cola and First Trust are among the 50 firms warning Westminster of the consequences of leaving the European Union without a deal on the 560,000 private sector employees here.
The letter, organised by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), is being sent to all 650 members of the House of Commons today.
It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded for "one last push" by MPs to get her Brexit deal through parliament. On Tuesday, the Commons is due to vote for a second time on Mrs May's proposed withdrawal terms with her warning of a "moment of crisis" with the possibility of the UK never leaving if MPs vote it down.
The signatories underline what they believe could be "significant damage to our export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power" in the event of a no-deal situation.
"Although Brexit has not yet happened, the negative economic impact is already starting to bite in terms of the private sector's ability to invest," it states.
"Northern Ireland industry also notes with much regret, uncertainty around future funding for local infrastructure given the immediate loss of approximately £450 million 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."
Other big hitters on the list include Devenish Nutrition, Fane Valley, Norbrook Laboratories and both universities.
In the letter, they lay out a grim prediction of "significant job losses", with a no-deal threatening to "stifle opportunities for the next generation across Northern Ireland".
Theresa May's hopes of a Brexit breakthrough are hanging in the balance after the EU appeared to rebuff her latest appeal for help in getting her withdrawal deal through Parliament.
The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said they would be "working intensively" in the coming days to resolve the impasse over the Northern Ireland backstop ahead of Tuesday's crunch vote by MPs. However, his suggestion the UK could unilaterally pull out of the planned single customs territory if it chose was dismissed by ministers as an attempt to "rerun old arguments".
The DUP said Northern Ireland would still be in the backstop, effectively drawing a "border in the Irish Sea" with the rest of the UK, something Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out.
Meanwhile, the Irish government has been told it needs to "stay strong" as Brexit looms, Sinn Fein has said.
Party president Mary Lou McDonald said the divorce should not wreck the Irish economy or the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms McDonald said: "It goes without saying that at this critical juncture, the Irish government needs to hold firm. They need to stay strong at the 11th hour, regardless of the overtures or pressure that might be applied from London. Whether there is a deal or not, the reality is that Brexit is bad for Ireland. Citizens in the North will be left behind."
Full list of signatories to CBI 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