Business leaders call for agreement and consensus over protocol

Trade NI leaders Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster; Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI and Glyn Roberts, Retail NI, during their last major political engagement at Westminster in September 2019. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

BUSINESS leaders from Northern Ireland will make the case for agreement and consensus on the protocol in London today.

A Westminster reception hosted by Trade NI is expected to be addressed by a number of senior UK government figures just one day after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced new legislation to unilaterally dis-apply parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Trade NI is the alliance of the north's three largest trade bodies - Retail NI, Manufacturing NI and Hospitality Ulster.

It is the first time the bodies have held an event in Westminster since September 2019.

Manufacturing NI chief executive Stephen Kelly said much of what was set out in the House of Commons on Tuesday featured in the command paper published by the UK government in July 2021.

"It's a reheat of the lunch first served last July by Lord Frost," he said.

But he said the UK government appeared to have dialled down its rhetoric.

"Time is being created in order to find consensus, which is where the business community in Northern Ireland have always been."

He said the business leaders will today appeal to senior government figures to use the time that's available between now and any bill progressing to find agreement.

"Both the UK and the EU both intimately understand what the trading issues are and there are suggestions not only from both sides, but from businesses themselves, on how those can be resolved.

"If that happens then there is no need for this bill to be enacted, no need for conflict to be created, because none of that is in the interest of Northern Ireland's businesses or households."

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "The bottom line is that we need an agreed co-designed solution to the challenges around the protocol involving both the UK government and EU.

"Retail NI would encourage the UK government and EU to continue the negotiations with a new sense of urgency. We look forward to further engagement with ministers this week in London on this statement."

In a separate statement, the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group, said businesses remain "frustrated with the ongoing failure to resolve the outstanding issues", but added: "It is our shared view that anything other than a negotiated outcome is sub-optimal.

"Against the background of a cost of living and cost of doing business crisis, it is incumbent on the EU and UK to recommence discussions without delay.

"It will require movement and compromise on both sides to secure the workable and lasting solutions we all need to see."

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