CBI Director-General Dame Carolyn Fairbairn will say that shared prosperity across the island of Ireland is at stake if a deal is not agreed and power-sharing at Stormont not restored.
Speaking at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala Dinner in Dublin ahead of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, Carolyn will remind political leaders that common ground has been found before in the nation’s history and can be found again. She will say that “this is a moment for historic political leadership” of the kind demonstrated during the negotiations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Good Friday Agreement.
Carolyn will outline the serious consequences that the double pressure of no deal uncertainty and no devolved government is having on Northern Irish businesses, local communities and the economy.
She will underline the urgent need for politicians to find workable solutions which secure Northern Ireland’s prosperity. She will say that if compromise can be reached, the unprecedented potential of the all-island economy would be unlocked.
On the impact of no deal and no Executive in Stormont, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will say:
“Business has been clear on the evidence for the past three years. Some cry ‘project fear’. It certainly doesn’t feel like that here on the island of Ireland. If people want on-the-ground evidence, then Northern Ireland provides the starkest examples.
“The Northern Ireland economy is rich in farming, food manufacturing, dairy and agri-businesses - sectors that can’t stockpile in the way others can. Then there’s the proportion of SMEs that make up the Northern Irish economy - 90% have fewer than 10 employees. These firms are woven throughout supply chains and are in many cases independent, or family-run businesses that lack the resources of larger corporations.
“Let’s not forget the absence of a Northern Irish Executive. No deal combined with no government is a devastating combination. A paralysis of decision making.
“Or those big infrastructure projects which have been stalled in the North for years. And of course, there’s the shared border. Where, for the past two decades goods and people have been able to move freely from North to South, to the benefit of both.
“Together, these characteristics, distinct to the North, mean that communities throughout the nation – many already struggling to keep up with the rest of the UK - will be uniquely and unfairly vulnerable to the economic hardship of no deal.
“It is the starkest example of what we stand to lose, and the clearest case for why no deal must be ruled out.”
On the potential emergence of a hard border, Carolyn will say:
“Let’s get really practical for a moment and think about what day one of no deal would look like for trade between North and South.
“The UK Government has said there will be no hard border. But the reality is that businesses can’t work like this. Without the legal certainty of compliance, they won’t risk breaking the law. It will be this that freezes the flow of many goods, from North to South.
“And it’s this gap – between Government’s stated commitment to avoiding a hard border and the reality of what’s needed for trade to flow – that is uniquely punitive for the Northern Irish economy.”
On the impact of no deal for Northern Ireland businesses, Carolyn will say:
"Two weeks ago, I visited all parts of the UK talking to hundreds of British businesses of every size and sector. The message was clear. Leaving the UK without a deal would cause great harm to many.
“In Belfast, I heard from companies in Armagh, Tyrone, Antrim – and more besides. From dairy farmers, to tech companies, food producers and aerospace manufacturers. All form a vital part of our economy. Many are preparing for no deal as far as they can, but preparation is not protection.
“There are certain things – fresh milk, butter, lamb - that it is simply not possible to store or stockpile. There are many services firms serving clients in Europe whose only option is to move operations out of the UK.
“And there are costs – tariffs, customs fees, new veterinary checks for livestock that – no matter how much you prepare simply add to the cost of doing business and threaten smaller companies altogether. There are unavoidable risks – in all but one way. By securing a negotiated settlement.
“I am under no illusion about how hard it is - no business leader is. But every politician with power in these vital weeks must do everything possible and revisit every red line to get there.”
On the importance of Brexit compromise, Carolyn will say:
“This is a moment for the kind of political leadership demonstrated during the negotiations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Good Friday Agreement. In the face of seemingly intractable partisanship, leaders found workable solutions.
“When everyone said it wasn’t possible. This country was once a symbol of conciliation, against the odds. From the heart of business to the heart of politics, we are asking you to revive that moment now.
“Because, if this common ground can be found, imagine what can be achieved. The unprecedented potential of an all-island economy. New opportunities in technology, healthcare, education and infrastructure. Improving lives and tackling deprivation in all its forms. A true ‘deal dividend’ for the communities of the island of Ireland, benefitting generations to come”.