At the CBI's annual Northern Ireland Dinner, CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, called on politicians in Northern Ireland, Westminster and in the EU to ensure a hard border is avoided, and that the power-sharing Executive is restored.
The lack of an Executive means Northern Ireland hasn’t had a seat at the table in Brexit negotiations to argue against the damaging impact of a no-deal scenario and the prospect of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
The CBI said the Agreement of 1998 had been a catalyst for economic growth.
Carolyn praised businesses for stepping up to become the voice of the economy, speaking up for jobs, prosperity and living standards.
"A functioning Executive is urgently needed - to drive the development of a new economic plan and give Northern Ireland back its powerful voice on the international stage. And an immigration system must be laid out that enables businesses to attract the people that will power long-term prosperity."
Carolyn also added that the UK Government needs to explain "precisely" how a soft border will be achieved after Brexit.
The audience was told that Northern Ireland was at a crossroads. "To reaffirm the principle of consent that underpins that agreement and its legacy of civil rights, prosperity and peace or to see a new division across the island of Ireland, with all that that entails for people's jobs, rights and livelihoods. Don't throw away a generation of progress in Northern Ireland on the back of Brexit."
"We at the CBI have said that a new customs union with the EU will help keep the border open and allow Northern Ireland to continue to prosper. "Based on current evidence it is the only way to keep the border fully open".
"Technology solutions may be ready one day but they are not yet. And trade deals around the world may one day compensate for lost EU trade. But that day is not yet here. So both sides should explore new customs union options, alongside ways to keep goods regulation closely aligned - the other essential ingredient of a wholly frictionless border".
"And while we are making this argument in Westminster we are also making it in the EU27"
"Where leadership is lacking, business has taken the lead."