Northern Ireland news

Business leader says Brexit and Border impasse can be solved

Willie McCarter believes his plan can answer every challenge put forward by Brexiteers.
Seamus McKinney

The former head of the International Fund for Ireland has claimed the Brexit impasse can be broken by the business community at no cost to the UK taxpayer while solving the Irish border issue.

Willie McCarter says an eight-point plan put forward by him last year answered every challenge posed by Brexiteers. Mr McCarter says his proposals could save the UK £10 billion a year while also avoiding the £39 billion settlement demanded by the EU.

Mr McCarter, who was also chief executive of clothing giant, Fruit of the Loom, hoped to have the plan considered by business leaders as well as the Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney.

The north west business leader proposed that UK business, commerce and industry agree to pay £10 billion a year, raised by a levy on invoices. This equals what the UK currently pays the EU and would be paid to the EU on a permanent basis.

Mr McCarter said the plan was particularly relevant in light of a claim by head of the Customs and Revenue Service, Jon Thompson (to a Commons committee) that the cost to UK business of operating export and import structures post Brexit would be £20 billion a year. In effect, it would save the UK £10 billion a year.

In return for the payment, the EU would negotiate a new customs union and free trade area with the UK while the £39 billion upfront “divorce payment” demanded by the EU would be dropped. The new arrangement would allow the UK to seek other deals worldwide which would be adjudicated through a new UK-EU Court and which could include the EU. All existing arrangements between the UK and Republic of Ireland – including the Good Friday Agreement – would be upheld.

While the new arrangement was being negotiated, current arrangements would be maintained between the UK and EU.

In a letter sent to business leaders – including vice president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Paul Drechsler – Mr McCarter said if business was willing to raise £10 billion a year, it could “alter the way negotiations are proceeding.”

He said: “£10 billion sterling per year (roughly the current net contribution to the EU) would permit the EU to maintain its budget without having to resort to EU tax payers and might persuade the EU to come up with something approaching the bespoke agreement sought by Mrs May.”

Mr McCarter said that if business could cover the cost demanded of the UK, other deals could be done on migration.

“I think this would head off a lot of the Brexiteers, the ones who really want to be out of the EU such as British nationalists who want a nation state. I think it would satisfy a lot of people who voted to leave.”

If the eight-point plan – or something similar – could be agreed, it would solve the Irish border issue automatically, he said.

“£10 billion a year from UK industry and commerce might well oil quite a few wheels, would be good value for money and would lead to a much more stable Europe” he said.

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