Businesses 'almost universally' want protocol to work, says CBI chief
The Belfast-born head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said almost all businesses in Northern Ireland believe the protocol can work.
Speaking during a visit to his native city, Tony Danker called for politicians to sit down and sort out issues around the post-Brexit settlement.
“I think the politicians like to pick their favourite business story that proves their side of the argument,” he told the BBC.
“The reality is businesses almost universally want the protocol to work and they think it could work. That's the truth.”
The CBI director-general said for businesses involved in manufacturing or exporting, access to both the EU single market and UK internal market “is a great competitive advantage and it's working really well”.
He added that while the barriers on bringing goods from Britain to Northern Ireland are complex and “unnecessary”, he said “tweaks” can be made.
“I actually agree with the Taoiseach, they are technical and they are trade oriented. And with all due respect to the politicians, I think if we could get them round the table, the solutions are there.
“So rather than us having political grandstanding every time there's a lorry stuck, or every time there's a complaint from a company, let's get some people on the table who can fix this thing, unblock this thing, so that the protocol can work dynamically over the next four years. Rather than causing a political crisis every three months.”
The CBI chief also called for the EU to be more flexible on the protocol and urged the British government to stop taking unilateral action.
“What we need to do is build trust because I tell you in the last two years, every time the parties have had trust, all the Brexit solutions get done. Every time they've bred mistrust, things fall apart.”
Born and raised in Belfast, Mr Danker is a former UK government policy advisor. He also held senior roles at Guardian News & Media before being appointed director-general of the CBI in November 2020.
He told BBC Radio Ulster that the political instability of Stormont remains one of major disadvantages for the Northern Ireland economy.
He also identified the higher rate of corporation tax in the north compared with the Republic.
“You've almost got two hands tied behind your back,” he said. “And you know what, that's why it's so important that we make the protocol work because the protocol has the potential to give Northern Irish businesses a competitive advantage versus businesses anywhere else.
“That is a potential competitive advantage that we can't lose sight of. Not just because it will make businesses more well off, but because it will bring prosperity to Northern Ireland.”