Business groups set to deliver unprecedented attack on DUP
BUSINESS groups and trade organisations in the north are set to deliver an unparalleled attack on the DUP next week over its opposition to the EU withdrawal agreement.
They are due to meet in Belfast on Monday morning, possibly in the presence of a senior Cabinet figure, to agree a statement in support of the Brexit deal, which they see as presenting "a pragmatic and workable solution".
And it is understood leading union figures will also weigh in behind them in an unprecedented move, as that will effectively be seen as them trying to save a Tory prime minister.
In a statement yesterday, the CBI, FSB, IoD and NI Chamber of Commerce, in a joint statement, said: “The draft withdrawal agreement, while no means perfect, is a welcome step forward and provides some much needed clarity for businesses. It provides a platform to move on to the critical next stage and allows work to begin on the formulation of a comprehensive future trade deal.
“Crucially, the extended transition period offers business the flexibility and time to adjust to a new relationship with the EU which they must be allowed to do in as smooth and orderly a manner as possible.”
The acrimonious breakdown of relations between the DUP and the north's corporate community, came to a head when previous allies and Leave group the Ulster Farmers' Union urged the self-styled 'party of business' to consider supporting Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.
During a television debate on Thursday night Sir Jeffrey Donaldson - who says his party won't support the draft text as it could lead to the break up of the UK and would damage the economy - challenged the UFU and accused it of "not properly understanding" the 585-page EU document.
That infuriated both the farm group, which represents the interests of 11,500 family farms in Northern Ireland, and business organisations, who have largely welcomed with withdrawal deal.
One business body chief told the Irish News: "Our relationship with the DUP is now toxic. We've had enough. They've burnt bridges with us."
A spokesman for another organisation said he feared his group "would lose some members if we invited the DUP to our events in this atmosphere".
The DUP has vowed to vote down Theresa May's deal, claiming the proposals for a border backstop will see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK.
In response to Sir Jeffrey's comments, UFU chief executive Wesley Aston said: "A no-deal situation for Northern Ireland agri-food and farming would be absolutely disastrous and we have made that patently clear.
"If we do go into a no-deal situation and it does impact on product prices, access to markets, import levels and standards, then that would have major consequences, reports that have looked at a no deal situation have said.
"There would be serious concerns for our livestock sectors in particular, because we depend so much on exports, particularly to the GB mainland market, and what that would mean if we were competing against lower price, lower standard imports."