Breakthrough on customs is urgently needed to avoid 'decimation of economy' says Chamber president
THE economies of Derry and the north west "will be decimated" if there is no breakthrough on customs arrangements after Brexit, a business chief is warning.
It could hamper future inward investments to the area, which in the last month alone has seen global screening manufacturer Terex open a £12 million operation in Campsie creating 100 jobs, while cyber security firm MetaCompliance is investing £4.5m to bring 70 jobs to the city.
The doomsday scenario came from Brian McGrath, president of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
He was delivering a hard-hitting keynote address to the organisation's annual dinner, attended by 350 people from more than 100 firms across the north, including sponsors Frylite, O'Neill's International Sportswear, FinTrU and packaging company Diamond.
Mr McGrath said the worst fears of the business community were about to be realised unless political leaders got together to hammer out a deal which solved the customs issue.
His speech came hours after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier likened Brexit to "climbing a mountain" after he'd held technical talks with Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay in Brussels.
Mr Barnier emerged from the talks to say: “We need vigilance, determination and patience.”
Mr McGrath told last night's dinner in the Everglades: “The future prosperity for everyone, unionists and nationalists alike, is going to come down to how we manage customs.
“And a deal which applies trade tariffs will decimate the economy at a regional and national level and we are on the front line.”
He said it was unacceptable that the north is being put in a position where it must make a choice between north-south or east-west relationships.
“The decision is not a binary one and we cannot be party to a deal that puts 40,000 people out of work,” he said.
“This was understood by the First and deputy First Ministers, who in September 2016 committed to the idea that special arrangements would be necessary for Northern Ireland after Brexit.”
The warning comes as Northern Ireland also marks 1,000 days since the Executive collapsed.
Mr McGrath added: “At one of the most critical junctures in our recent history, we are still without an Executive. We are now 1,000 days without leadership at Stormont and that is impeding progress.
“Businesses in the north west simply want to get on with the day job and create jobs and prosperity. We have a multitude of skilled people and innovative companies working in incredibly diverse areas. There is much potential to harness, if the conditions are right.
“What we have been saying consistently as a business community is that we can grow our businesses, create more jobs and deliver economic success, provided we are given the right tools to get the job done.”