Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has today (Monday) published a business blueprint for the UK government ahead of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

With the triggering of Article 50 possibly only days away, the blueprint features feedback from over 400 local businesses along with nearly 2,000 responses to NI Chamber surveys gathered since June last year.

Evidence gathered by the business membership organisation confirms that Europe will remain a key market for local exporters and importers well into the future. As a consequence, it is imperative that the government achieves a pragmatic UK-EU deal that facilitates continued trade.

The report puts forward priorities for action across seven key areas where the local business community wants practical solutions and certainty:

 

  • On the Border, the government must avoid any return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so that businesses can move people and goods as freely as possible
  • On the Labour Market, the government should provide certainty for businesses on the residence rights of their existing EU workers, provide clarity on hiring from EU countries during the negotiation period, and avoid expensive and bureaucratic processes for post-Brexit hires from the EU
  • On Trade, the government should aim to minimise tariffs, seek to avoid costly non-tariff barriers and grandfather existing EU free trade agreements with third countries. The type of trade model developed as a result of the negotiations cannot disadvantage Northern Ireland businesses and the wider economy.
  • On Customs, the government should develop future customs procedures at the UK border in partnership with business, seek to maintain the UK’s position as an entry point for global businesses to Europe
  • On Tax, the government should guarantee that HMRC is appropriately resourced to help businesses through the transition process, and provide clarity on whether VAT legislation will continue to mirror current core VAT principles
  • On Regulation, the government should ensure stability by incorporating existing EU regulations into UK law and maintaining these for a minimum period following Brexit, and ensure that product standards are aligned with, and recognised by, the EU to keep UK products competitive
  • On EU funding, the government should maintain UK access to the European Investment Bank, and ensure there is no funding ‘cliff-edge’ for areas in receipt of EU funding including Northern Ireland

Nick Coburn, President of NI Chamber, said: “Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry members want practical considerations, not ideology or politics, at the heart of the government’s approach to Brexit negotiations. That also means we must establish a single Northern Ireland voice on Brexit to address key business concerns regarding skills and trade.

“What’s debated in Westminster often isn’t what matters for most businesses, especially in Northern Ireland. Most firms care little about the exact process for triggering Article 50, but they care a lot if their products are stopped by customs authorities at the border; or about an unexpected VAT hit to their cash flow, sudden changes to regulation, the inability to recruit the right people for the job, or. The everyday nitty-gritty of doing business across borders must be front and centre in the negotiation process.

“It is also clear that the eventual Brexit deal is far from the only thing on the minds of the business community. An ambitious domestic agenda for business and the economy is also essential so that business can drive our post-Brexit success. Firms want a clear assurance that Brexit isn’t going to be the only thing on the government’s economic agenda for the next few years. An investment in skills and prioritising key infrastructure projects for example must not be sent into the background.

“This report brings those practical priorities together and urges the government to adopt them in the forthcoming negotiations. NI Chamber and its members stand ready to help the government shape a pragmatic and practical approach to the coming transition, so that firms can continue to trade successfully with customers and suppliers across Europe and around the world.”

170313 NI Chamber Brexit Principles