Business

Come on Boris, show us the money!

With Boris Johnson's deal now done, 2020 is a critical year, defining how Northern Ireland trades with GB for the next generation
Stephen Kelly

THAT'S it then. It's all over bar the shouting. No, not Liverpool's inevitable crowning as Premier League champions, but Brexit.

Today, the government is expected to see its Brexit divorce deal with the EU pass unamended through Parliament and with that, with or without the ringing of bells, the UK will leave the EU at 11pm on Friday week.

Of course, whilst Boris will want the word 'Brexit' to now disappear from public discussion, today (or January 31) is only the end of the beginning of Brexit. There will be plenty of talking, debating and arguing about it for some time to come yet. A bit like the 1966 England World Cup victory, we'll never hear the end of it!

So, with a Brexit reality now upon us, it is great that we have our own Assembly and Executive back on the field.

A collective Stormont Executive voice was sadly absent from the Brexit debate this past couple of years. With Boris' deal now done, 2020 is a critical year where how we trade with GB for the next generation will be defined.

The business and farming community worked over Christmas with the local parties and unanimously agreed a series of amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Yes, given the strength in Parliament, these amendments fell, but the interventions have returned in the New Decade, New Approach document and there remains a requirement for the UK government in the Withdrawal Agreement to legislate for businesses in the north to continue to enjoy ‘unfettered access' in the GB marketplace.

Much of the delivery of Brexit will also pass through the Assembly as Legislative Consent Motions. Whilst this won't stop Brexit, it will perhaps help iron out the roughest of edges for us.

There also remains a need for both the EU and the UK to agree some derogation, mitigation, compensation and a space for local representation as they try to conclude what the future relationship between them will be in the years ahead.

With the Executive and Assembly back and with a huge body of work to be done to make up for the past three years, there is also a responsibility on civic society to play our part in creating and protecting the space which allows our new Executive to get stuff done.

As we did with the Brexit debate, we are prepared to offer our insight and effort to help. We also have a responsibility to continue to speak truth on to power.

Civic society should be joining the calls from the Executive to both the NIO and Treasury to step up and properly fund the New Decade, New Approach plan. The UK government committed not just to the local parties. but to us all.

Whether it was bad faith or just bad maths, not putting in place the funding or investment needed to kick start our political institutions and our economy is bad form.

Our local firms and families are being asked to carry the cost of Britain's Brexit and our local parties accepted commitments from the UK government to try to get our public services and infrastructure back on track. We aren't asking for another hand out, but a hand up.

So, come on Boris, show us the money!

:: Stephen Kelly (stephenkelly@manufacturingni.org) is chief executive of Manufacturing NI (www.manufacturingni.org)

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Business