Business groups vent anger over 'confusing' Brexit papers

The no-deal Brexit papers have been met with anger from the local business community in the north
Gareth McKeown

THE publication of the British Government's Brexit 'no deal' papers has been met with anger from within the north's business community.

The Government released 24 technical papers yesterday outlining preparations and scenarios that could play out if no agreement can be reached before the March deadline.

The papers, which state, amongst other things, that Northern Ireland businesses who trade on the border should contact the Irish government for advice in the event of a no-deal scenario, have been labelled confusing and disruptive by representatives from local groups.

Speaking after their publication, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ann McGregor said the papers had not delivered any clarity for local businesses.

“Today's Brexit papers have two key outcomes for Northern Ireland businesses – it confuses them more and increases their costs.

“This, in tandem with the lack of key infrastructure decisions that can be made here, amplifies the need for an Executive to return to represent Northern Ireland at this critical time," she said.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI said it is "extraordinary" local firms have been advised to contact the Irish Government in the event of a no-deal

"The fear was that there was little understanding in Whitehall, now there appears to be little care about how Northern Ireland businesses actually operate."

"The UK government has a responsibility to deliver the Brexit they've chosen in a way which does not damage jobs and livelihoods. Only business can make Brexit work so brushing our firms off and telling them to go sort our own problems out by speaking to Dublin is not acceptable," Mr Kelly said.

"What has been provided in these papers only makes here a more difficult and less attractive place to do business buy doubling up on rules, introducing unwelcome customs costs and everyone, including individuals liable for VAT cost," he added.

The papers have also been met with negativity from within the retail sector, with fears expressed over price rises for the consumer.

"Unfortunately these notices paint a very dark picture not only for our industry, but across the board for business as well as the hard pressed Northern Ireland consumer," director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Aodhán Connolly said.

“Most worryingly these notices provide confirmation that unless anything else changes, a no deal Brexit would mean World Trade Organisation tariffs on imports from the EU on day one with an average 22 per cent on food, 44 per cent on Irish cheddar, 21 per cent on Dutch tomatoes. This will translate into price rises which is disaster for our consumers who already have half of the discretionary income of our Great Britain counterparts.”

"The efforts of both negotiating teams in the coming weeks must be to settle on a withdrawal agreement and an orderly transition to avoid these deeply damaging consequences for consumers and the retail industry," Mr Connolly added.

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