N.Irish businesses urge UK against potentially damaging unilateral plans
By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST (Reuters) – Northern Irish businesses urged Britain to tackle disruption to post-Brexit trade through negotiations with the European Union rather than pursuing unilateral plans published on Monday that some sectors said would leave them worse off.
London has pledged to implement the legislation overriding some post-Brexit trade rules for the British-run region if negotiations with the EU on removing many checks on goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom fail.
Britain wants to introduce two lanes for goods, a green lane permitting the seamless flow of products staying in the UK, and a red for those moving onto the EU and requiring checks. It also wants to allow businesses to choose between meeting UK and EU standards in a new dual regulatory regime.
“While there are attractive elements in the proposals for consumer facing businesses in particular, a careful balance must be struck to protect gains made to date by our exporters and agri-food sub-sectors,” Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce Head of Public Affairs Stuart Anderson said in a statement.
“The apparent shifting of risk onto Northern Irish businesses is a cause for particular concern.”
Anderson said it was incumbent on the EU and the UK to reach a negotiated outcome, a view echoed by every business group, including those representing retailers, wholesalers and others most affected by the checks introduced so far under the Northern Ireland protocol.
However the manufacturing, dairy and meat industries have warned that unilateral action by London could damage Northern Irish business. Many of their members have benefited from the continued access to the EU’s single market granted to Northern Ireland but not England, Scotland or Wales.
Stephen Kelly of trade body Manufacturing NI told the BBC that the green and red channels “simply will not work.” It and the dual regulatory regime would add additional burdens for the many business that trade not only with the rest of the UK, but across the open border with Ireland and the wider EU, he said.
“I don’t think they understand border areas at all and they don’t really appreciate a lot of trade issues properly,” Campbell Tweed of the National Sheep Association added in an interview with Reuters, referring to the UK government.
“I don’t see people trying to operate to two different standards in the same place and if they do, that’s going to bring serious difficulties.”
(Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra)