With only two weeks to the next European Council meeting and less than a month until the deadline for asking for a transition period extension, the business community in Northern Ireland has come together to share its challenges, concerns and takeaways from the recently published UK Government Command Paper on the implementation of the NI Protocol. The Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group (NIBBWG) have written a new report entitled, Implementing the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol: What Business in Northern Ireland needs & why.
The report has been compiled with input from across business in Northern Ireland. The overarching finding of the report is that while progress has been made and the ambitions of the UK Government are laudable, there is a need for technical detail to allow business to prepare for the changes that will come into force on 1 January 2021.
Other findings in the report were:
- There is a need for detail of how goods flow both ways across the Irish sea as well how the integrated nature of the whole island economy can be maintained
- The solutions that are brought forward need to reflect the needs of business and consumers for example applied trusted trader schemes that cover Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks as well as customs procedures.
- Governments both in NI and GB must undertake to educate business large and small about what the protocol implementation means in practice for them and for their customers
- The overriding asks of business – for representation, mitigation, derogation and compensation – remain essential if NI is to safely navigate this upheaval
- There is little bandwidth or financial capacity amongst the NI business community to deal with this now.
Lastly the report espouses the need for better access for business on this issue with both the Westminster Government and the NI Executive.
“Over the past few weeks, as a group, we have met with a delegation from the EU Task Force UK as well as representatives from the 5 main political parties in Northern Ireland and that has been extremely useful. But given the impending ending of the transition period in six months and the level of preparations that will need to be made we must be able to voice our concerns with the Westminster Government and our political leaders in the Executive,” NIBBWG convenor Aodhán Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said.
“We said in January to have everything in place that business needs to trade successfully will be a Herculean task and it has only gotten harder since then. We need the government officials in Whitehall to sit down and talk with our technical experts to ensure that solutions work
“If we get this wrong this is not just an economic issue for business but a standard of life issue for households across Northern Ireland.”
“We desperately need technical detail from the UK Government. We also need a generosity of spirit from the EU to allows derogations to facilitate mitigations. This is going to take movement from both side to make this work”
“We have proven ourselves willing and able to work with the UK Government and the EU on tangible meaningful solutions over the past three years and with the crunch time approaching, we are committed to play our part but we need both sides to work with us.”
The report also contains over 60 questions that business wants answered as soon as possible on areas as diverse as VAT, labour, customs and business engagement. The report has been sent to the UK govt, NI Executive, the EU as well as wider political stakeholders.
- The Full membership of the NI Business Brexit Working Group includes:
- Northern Ireland Retail Consortium
- CBI NI
- Manufacturing NI
- Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Hospitality Ulster
- Dairy Council
- NI Meat Exporters Association
- NI Grain Trade Association
- Mineral Products Association Northern Ireland.
- Ulster Farmers Union